Fort Weyr – Administration Complex

A long and narrow staircase leads the way up the mountainside, pausing at the large weyrs of several golds, passing by the one that used to be Moreta’s so many Turns ago, before leading up to the Senior Queen’s weyr, and finally ending at the Weyrleader’s weyr. This is one of the more frequently travelled areas of the weyr, with messengers running back and forth as well as the occasional visiting dignitary.

Perhaps winter isn’t the best of times to go on a tour of the cotholds. And yet, at the same time, it’s the best time to go. Elara stands in the middle of the Administration Complex, watching as drudges line up a few crates and bags in a space that has been shoveled of snow right down to the frozen dirt. Wiyaneth stands nearby, the pale golden queen looking washed out against the white of the snow as she fans and stretches her wings. The sky is cloudy but it doesn’t threaten snow, the clouds just enough to cut down on any glare off the white surfaces of Fort’s winter.

Having returned hours before from his early morning duties, Th’ero had retired to his weyr not only to warm up, but to also put some paperwork to order. It would seem though that despite it being winter, the Weyrleader is venturing out again. Dressed in his warmer, fur lined riding gear, he comes striding down the short flight of stairs to the administration complex as he slips on his gloves. Velokraeth is not far behind, carefully winging down from his ledge, straps already buckled into place and to the nearest space available to fit him and not crowd Wiyaneth too much. Even if the pale, misshapen bronze has to stand in the snow, he seems not to mind as he lowers his oversized head and rumbles low to the pale golden queen. Th’ero pauses by the base of the stairs, brown eyes observant as drudges come to line up crates and bags in the shoveled space. Carefully, he picks his way over to Elara, a small smile on his lips as he nods politely. “Weather seems to be holding.” He murmurs, glancing up to the cloud covered sky.

Dtirae is still learning the ropes, apparently, as she has only a few tasks that she does solo, without supervision just so nothing is messed up. Not that the goldrider has been complaining any. The pair, Zuvaleyuth and Dtirae, arrive right on schedule. The goldrider, notably, is carrying her knives once again, with the addition of her newer one. There’s a salute to both Elara and Th’ero as a cheerful, amused smile settles upon her lips. Gone is the stress filled weyrling, and in return there is a happier, cheerful goldrider. “‘m ready ta head out if there’s nothin’ else ta cover b’fore we leave?”

Elara turns her head at the same time Wiyaneth does, each to greet their species of the Weyrleader pair. Wiyaneth’s rumble is soft and distracted, while Elara’s smile is warm and inviting. “It does at that, Weyrleader,” she agrees, glancing skyward. She is dressed in her warmest riding gear, fur lined leather that is left its natural brown, but detailed with violet around the hem lines. Her hood is up over her curls, and her knot displayed prominently on her jacket’s shoulder. As Dtirae arrives, Elara’s warm smile moves to the young goldrider, and she nods. “There is. We’re delivering supplies to some of the further cotholds, to help them through the winter. Those,” she points to the crates and bags, “need to be put on your dragon’s straps.” Notably, she doesn’t take any for Wiyaneth to carry. Age and injury has it’s privileges.

Th’ero has no hood on his gear, the mess of curls that make up his hair providing enough cover for now should the wind not pick up too fiercely. And if it does, he at least has his flight helmet on Velokraeth’s straps. His knot too has been pinned and secured to his shoulder, though it’s almost lost amongst the dark somber colors of his riding leathers. Glancing down again to face Elara, his small smile remains, though there seems some awkwardness there on the Weyrleader’s part. Could it be his slip in formality? “And how does the day treat you and Wiyaneth today, weyrwoman?” he murmurs politely. Velokraeth’s warm and sweet-toned warble to the arrival of Zuvaleyuth has Th’ero falling silent then, turning now to Dtirae as the young goldrider smiles cheerfully their way. The Weyrleader only nods his head, though his smile twitches broader for a flicker of a second. “All for Zuvaleyuth?” Th’ero asks, once Elara has given the order. He gives the weyrwoman a curious look, though hastily adds so not to sound as if he’s undermining her command. “Not that I object. Velokraeth can help though, if needed?”

Dtirae looks to the crates and bags with her brows lifting in surprise before grey eyes turn and settle upon the weyrwoman. “Right. Do we always deliver supplies?” Though she does ask a question, she doesn’t hesitate to move over to the goods with Zuvaleyuth following close behind. A few of the bags are taken more easily than the crates before she looks over towards Th’ero, once and giving Velokraeth a look before her gaze flickers to her lifemate. She says nothing, for the time being, though she does pause in loading the straps in case Elara does allow the bronze to help. Zuvaleyuth croons softly in a greeting to both Wiyaneth and Velokraeth, soft and sweet and certainly shorter than any worded greeting she normally gives.

Elara smiles, giving her head a little shake to clear an errant curl from her eyes. “So far, so good,” she answers Th’ero. “Yourself?” If Th’ero is awkward, Elara isn’t mentioning it, continuing on with the plan in her bustling, grandmotherly manner. “And it doesn’t matter who holds what, since we’re all going to the same places. Our first stop is Fort Sea Hold. Mostly so we can pick up some salted fish to take with us on the main part of our journey. How is Kimmila doing?” the Weyrwoman asks then. Maybe it’s an innocent question. It certainly /looks/ innocent, with her warm and curious smile. But maybe it’s more shrewd, also. It’s impossible to tell, as the weyrwoman’s mask of polite interest has been well affixed these past 35 turns. Looking back to Dtirae, she nods, “Usually, yes. There are a few far remote cotholds that I know could use the help this winter, due to…various things.” She waves her hand vaguely.

“We’re both well, thank you.” Th’ero replies easily enough and perhaps there is more to tell, but the Weyrleader keeps things brief. At her reply to his question concerning the supplies, he chuckles dryly, lowering his head. Of course! Brown eyes dart upwards though when Elara inquires after Kimmila and Th’ero seems to stand all the straighter. If he wasn’t awkward before he certainly is now, even if it was all in innocence. “She’s doing well, last I saw her.” He tells the retired weyrwoman before politely clearing his throat and gesturing towards a few of the remaining sacks and supplies. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll see about getting the last of these strapped to Velokraeth, so we can be off.” Truthfully, Zuvaleyuth could have easily carried it all, but Th’ero is looking for a brief escape and will take any route. So leaving Elara to answer Dtirae’s question, the Weyrleader turns then to begin the task of dragging some of the remaining crates and sacks to Velokraeth. The bronze only watches in what seems to be an amused manner as his rider begins to balance out the weight of the parcels on his straps.

When Elara notes that Velokraeth can carry thing as well, Dtirae finishes loading Zuvaleuth to let the pair get closer, moving off tot he side but staying within hearing range of Elara and the Weyrleader. She doesn’t make any commentary about Kimmila, nor Th’ero’s awkwardness, instead, she focuses all attention on the elder goldrider and nods when she explains. “I see. Ain’t got much else ta say then, no other questions, either.” With that, she reaches into one of her pockets and draws out her gloves before search Zuvaleyuth’s riding pouch for the rest of her riding things, getting herself ready for departure. A smile of amusement lingers as she turns her gaze to Th’ero, lingering in her own thoughts.

Elara chuckles at Th’ero, nodding her head. “Good, I’m glad to hear it. I might have to steal her away from you the next time she comes to visit, though. I have some things she and I need to discuss.” Oooooh. Glancing around, Elara nods as the younger dragons are loaded, before she walks to Wiyaneth’s side. “Fort Sea Hold is our first stop,” the retired Weyrwoman says, climbing up her dragon’s straps with ease despite her slow pace. Once she’s buckled in and ready, Wiyaneth extends her wings. “We’ll meet you there,” Elara says, sure that both other riders are well aware of Wiyaneth’s limitations and her need to hop between a few feet from the ground. With that, the old queen crouches and springs aloft with a strong kick of her legs, her wings giving her a downstroke before she vanishes.

Having come back to grab the last sack for loading, Elara’s mention of having to steal her daughter for a discussion has Th’ero giving the retired weyrwoman a brisk nod. “I can tell her that you wish to speak to her?” he offers with a vague smile. The Weyrleader tries not to frown too heavily either, less his worry or concern show. Hoisting the sack to his shoulder, he’ll wait for Elara’s response before turning away, strapping it to Velokraeth’s side. Th’ero then glances over to where Dtirae stands with Zuvaleyuth and noticing the younger goldrider has finished and is ready, his smile returns briefly as he signals his approval. Not wasting another moment of time, he climbs up his bronze’s straps, settling into the saddle and buckling himself in. As Velokraeth rises to his feet, wings extending in preparation for flight, the Weyrleader reaches into a storage pouch for his helmet, slipping it on. The pair will wait for Wiyaneth to take off first, patient and understanding in her needs before launching up into the air behind her. When it comes to Betweening though, the Weyrleader pair will linger, Th’ero signaling for Dtirae to go ahead first and leaving them to take up the rear.

Dtirae is snickering softly to herself at Elara’s words for the Weyrleader, hiding it carefully behind her clothing as if she was a little bit colder than normal. When the Weyrleader glances in their direction, however, she’s completely sober until he looks away once signaling his approval. Without hesitation, she’s mounting up and buckling herself in. Zuvaleuth is patient, waiting for her lifemate to be completely strapped in before she takes off aver the elder gold, shortly after Velokkraeth. There’s a few checks that are made, going over the location before they disappear between.

Fort Hold – Fort Hold – Landing Field(#982RJLes)

The landing field, once a place of dirt and rocks, has made a rejuvenation of sorts, and is now merely a pleasant meadow. Grass has returned with a vengeance, and not even the heavy tread of dragonlimbs can deter it completely, though they do manage to discourage some of the more delicate flowers. Hardy plants and weeds do thrive, helping to keep the area from flooding during heavy rains, and providing a fresh clean scent to the air.

Elara leads the way to the Sea Hold, letting Wiyaneth glide to a landing in their field by the beach. Dismounting, the weyrwoman spends a moment rubbing ointment on the old queen’s wing before she pulls off her helmet and gloves and walks over to where Th’ero and Dtirae have landed. Walking out to meet them is a slightly stooped older man, a bit older than Elara, his bald head hidden by a floppy cap. “As I live’n breathe, that be Elara?” he calls. With a brief glance to her companions, the weyrwoman puts on a wide smile and walks forward, her hands outstretched. “It is, Jim,” she answers, accepting the embrace and the kiss to her cheek from the older man. The two exchange a moment of greetings, talking about families and inquiring after each others’ health. For the moment, Th’ero and Dtirae are left to their own devices, until a chance arises for Elara to pull them into the conversation.

Velokraeth emerges from between not long after Zuvaleyuth and Dtirae supposedly do as well. The bronze takes his time in landing, despite Th’ero’s complaints. Finding a suitable spot on the landing field, the bronze finally swoops down to land and doing so with surprising grace and ease, given his awkward build and the added weight and bulk to his straps. Once settled, he turns his head to croon towards the youngest gold, urging her to join him. Wiyaneth is also given some attention, though Velokraeth drops to a polite, if not inquiring sounding rumble. Th’ero seems to ignore this in favor of focusing on Elara as the retired weyrwoman approaches. Unbuckling himself, he pauses only to slip off his helmet and stowing it away before dismounting. His gloves are peeled off next and tucked into his belt and he’s about to mention something to Elara when he’s distracted by the arrival of the older man. Watching the exchange, the Weyrleader then turns to gesture towards Dtirae with one of his hands for her to come stand by his side, if she hadn’t done so already.

The youngest gold pair emerge from between, coming to land down and looking over towards Elara. When the man is spotted, her brows lift before she lets out a very soft sigh and prepares for a rather long wait. Velokraeth’s invitation to join him is met with a returned croon and the gold leaves Dtirae to her own devices. When the Weyrleader gestures for her to join him, however, she makes her way to his side, her hands coming to tuck into her coat pockets.

Elara chats with the man for a few minutes before she steers him over towards Th’ero and Dtirae. “Have you met our new Weyrleader, Th’ero, bronze Velokraeth’s? And our newest goldrider, Dtirae, Zuvaleyuth’s?” The man pulls his hat from his head and gives them both a stooped bow. “Pleasure’s mine, sir, ma’am, nice ‘ta meet’cha,” he drawls. “Understand y’re pickin’ up supplies for them cothold’s snowed in already?” Elara lets one of her companions answer that question, stepping into the background, figuratively speaking.

As Dtirae comes to stand by his side with her hands tucked into her coat pockets, Th’ero gives her a long, searching look before murmuring low for her and only her to overhear while Elara and the older man are occupied. “Keep focused. And try to look somewhat interested?” Seems to be his only warning, though tinged with some amusement before he lifts his head up just in time for Elara’s introduction. Smiling pleasantly, the Weyrleader is all duty and politeness now as he takes a slight step forwards. The bow is returned, though not quite as low as the older man may have done. “And my pleasure as well, Jim. All fairs well with Fort Sea Hold?” Th’ero may be new, but it’s apparently not his first visit here, though it may have been some time since then. At his gentle inquiry, Th’ero’s smile only deepens and he turns a little to face Dtirae with an expectant look. Seems the Weyrleader is going to test his newest goldrider right off the bat, though undoubtedly she has the support of both himself and Elara should she falter.

Dtirae peers over at Th’ero as he murmurs to her, a smirk playing upon her lips but she says nothing in response, there is only a nod to acknowledge his words of wisdom. When Elara makes the introductions, however, she is looking forward and more attentive than pervious moments. She returns the greeting with a bow of her own, showing more respect for the elder man. “Well met, sir.” She chirps in but then silences as Th’ero returns the greeting as well. But, she’s thrown under the bus, so to speak to answer the question poised towards them. If they were in any other setting, the pair likely would have gotten a stink eye from the youngest goldrider. “Yes, that’s correct. Winter’s a tough season ta deal with.”

Jim looks Th’ero over for a moment, before his brown eyes move to look at Dtirae, his smile easy and relaxed. “All’s well as can be expected here, sir. Got some storms, but that’s normal. Naught to do but keep on.” Turning, he puts two fingers to his lips and whistles to some apprentice boys carrying some small crates between them. “Ah, here’s the lads with the fish. Is our pleasure to help the less fortunate, it is,” Jim says with a warm smile for the trio of visiting riders. “Just keep sendin’ yer riders our way for their drinks and fish, eh?” he asks, giving Th’ero a wink. The apprentice boys shuffle forward and set the loads down, one of them staring boldly at Th’ero while the other looks in awe at the dragons, before they’re shooed off back to the Hall. “There ye’be,” Jim says, waving a gnarled hand at the crates.

Th’ero is well aware of what position he just thrust Dtirae into, but his expression shows nothing but an innocent mask in the form of a continued pleasant smile and warm, open look. But she does get a subtle nod of approval for her handling of it. Hands coming to clasp behind his back, the Weyrleader holds himself straight and tall, no shyness or awkwardness apparent. “I’m glad to hear it.” He says in turn to Jim, sounding sincere in respects to Fort Sea Holds well being, even giving an understanding look to the mention of storms and simply carrying on. At the whistle, Th’ero looks off ahead, interest piqued now as the apprentice boys arrive carrying the small crates of supplies. “And our continued gratitude for your help.” The wink is met with a soft chuckle and the Weyrleader adds, “I won’t forget.” He muses, distracted for a moment by the one boy who stares at him so boldly before being shooed back to the Hold. Blinking, he gives a slight shake of his head, more amused then anything before turning to give a long, inspecting look of the crates. “All is in order. Again, our thanks for the supplies and if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get these secured. Clear skies!” With one last subtle bow to Jim, a smile that borders on a grin and a nod to Elara and Dtirae, he leaves the goldriders to finish with the conversation.

Dtirae returns the smile that is given, saying nothing more as the man begins to speak to Th’ero. She lingers near by, regardless if her part is done or not. Her gaze drifts over towards the apprentices as they are whistled over and she looks them over carefully. The one that stares at Th’ero earns a longer look than the ones staring at the dragons before they are all sent off on their way. When Th’ero takes off, away from the conversation, her eyes briefly follow him as she remains in her spot . Her gaze turns towards Jim again and she inclines her head. “Thank you again for yer help.”

Jim chuckles over to Elara as the retired weyrwoman steps closer. “D’rather have clear seas,” the old man chuckles, grinning at Th’ero’s choice of farewell. “Don’t clear skies usually mean clear seas?” Elara asks, her grin wide and just a touch teasing. That makes the old man laugh, nodding his head, “Fair enough, m’lady, fair enough,” he chuckles. Brown eyes settle on Dtirae again, and the man smiles at her. “Was nice to meet’cha, m’lady. Glad to have another gold up at Fort.” With a few fingers tipped to the brim of his cap, he turns to go, and Elara smiles. “Let’s move on to the next, shall we?” she asks, walking towards her lifemate. “Wiyaneth has the image for you both, incase you haven’t been there before.”

It doesn’t take long for Th’ero to fix the crates of food supplies to Velokraeth’s straps and by the time he’s adjusting the last of them, Jim has already given his farewells. The Weyrleader raises a hand up in one last gesture to the holder, before turning his attention back to Elara. “I’ll have Velokraeth speak to her then for it.” Indeed, the pale bronze rumbles and his whirling mismatched eyes seem to focus on the older gold for a moment before he gives a soft chuffing like noise. Satisfied, Th’ero gives his bronze an affectionate thump to his side before letting out a low exhale. “That went well.” He notes, with a pointed look given to Dtirae. The Weyrleader smiles one of his small smiles, his way of showing approval aside from the quick, “Well done.” Sent her way. To Elara, he smiles as well, “We’re all set. Whenever you are ready.” And with that, Th’ero mounts up, buckles in and dons his flight helmet and gloves once more.

Dtirae listens to the exchange between Elara and Jim silently, keeping straight with her hands folding behind her back. She attempts to look somewhat interested in the exchange, but, like all teens, she doesn’t exactly pass with flying colors. At least when attention is on her again, she’s smiling and cheerful. “And you, sir. Thank you.” She inclines her head and when he turns to leave, she visibly relaxes and nods to Elara for her statement on departing. Hands again tuck themselves into her pocket while grey eyes settle on the Weyrleader. The approval given to her from the man earns a smile and she makes her way fully over towards her lifemate before mounting up again. Pride makes her sit up just a /little/ straighter than normal.

Elara climbs up into her dragon’s straps, and a few moments later Wiyaneth is kicking skyward, this time rising above the cliffs before she vanishes between. She leads them to a cothold in the foothills, a sturdy area made of stone and nestled against a steeply sloped hill. The buildings are surrounded by a high wall, keeping the worst of the snow drifts out. Gliding to a landing in the four foot drifts of snow that blanket the area, Wiyaneth rumbles softly to the watchwher, who scurries back into his den with a little warble. Dismounting, Elara pushes back her hood and waits for the others to arrive. At the same time, word spreads of their arrival, and a woman Elara’s age hurries out of the walled courtyard, through the open gates towards the goldrider. “I’m so glad you’ve come,” she says, reaching for Elara’s arm. Behind her strides a young man of around fourteen turns, solidly built and with the first brush of fuzz across his upper lip. He eyes the dragons with suspicion, arms crossed over his chest. The woman continues, “My husband’s had a fall, will you come?” Elara, ever the Healer, doesn’t hesitate in pulling her bag from Wiyaneth’s straps. “We have supplies, too,” she says, nodding to Th’ero and Dtirae. “Our Weyrleader and newest goldrider have come to visit.” The woman gives them both a strained smile, but clearly her thoughts are elsewhere. “A pleasure, sir, ma’am, and our duties to you. But please, Elara, come with me if you would…please…” She resists actually tugging on Elara’s arm, but her insistence is undeniable and the older goldrider is soon hurrying after the woman, leaving the boy to frown at Th’ero and Dtirae. He’s dressed warmly, in brown leather lined with llama wool of good quality.

Velokraeth launches skywards not far behind from Wiyaneth and like before, the bronze waits for Dtirae and Zuvaleyuth to vanish Between first before following suit. As they emerge above the foothills, the young bronze rumbles low in interest, having not been this far remote yet. Even Th’ero leans a little in the straps to get a better view and understanding as they slowly spiral down to land in the deep snow. The Weyrleader dismounts then as well, turning his head as his brown eyes inspect the wall with interest. As the holders imerge though, his attention focuses on them. Already, Th’ero has a polite smile at the ready as the woman reaches Elara first. It falters slightly though at the younger man with the suspicious look and the woman’s news. “Pleasure is ours as well. The Weyr is glad to help.” He says towards her hurriedly with a worried frown to follow both hers and Elara’s departure, before clearing his throat slightly. Left now with the young boy frowning at them, Th’ero inclines his head, a small smile still in place. “It seems we timed our visit well.” He says, watching the young boy carefully. “I’m Th’ero, bronze Velokraeth. And this is Dtirae,” And he pauses to extend a hand towards the younger goldrider, “gold Zuvaleyuth’s rider.” Another pause where he no doubt allows Dtirae to slip in with her own greeting. “We have food and other necessities. Is there anything your hold requires critically?” Th’ero goes on to mention, gesturing now to the well laden straps on both dragons. Then it’s the waiting game.

Once they arrive at their new destination, Dtirae is quick to dismount, giving Zuvaleyuth a long look over, muttering softly to her lifemate before she’s making her way over towards Elara. Nothing is said right away, instead, she simply casts a look between woman and boy before her gaze slowly drifts over towards Th’ero. She doesn’t make an intelligent response about the Weyr, likely uncertain of what to say and the words having been spoken already by the Weyrleader. Then, the pair depart, leaving the boy with them. Grey eyes settle on said boy and her brows furrow into a slight frown, and then Th’ero is introducing her and asking of the boy’s needs. Still, she says nothing. When Zuvaleyuth makes a sound, the goldridern straightens a fraction and looks back to her lifemate.

The boy continues to frown at Th’ero, his eyes shifting to the dragons. “No,” he answers curtly, “though I’m sure there’s some things of ours that you would like to help yourself to?” He motions a hand around towards the hold proper, and the llamas in the field beyond, his tone sarcastic and rather bitter. Arms fold across his chest once more, as he eyes Dtirae for a long moment, his intense stare probably uncomfortable.

The lack of formal courtesies and even a name has Th’ero’s smile vanishing at last, mouth pressing into a thin line as he now studies the young boy carefully, if not a touch puzzled by his behavior. Despite the sarcastic and bitterness of his tone, the Weyrleader keeps his voice level and even. “No?” Th’ero echoes, even as his eyes travel over to the hold proper and the llamas in the field, thoughtful and curious. “Well, that is good news then, that the hold is prosperous and well stocked.” Pleasant (if not a touch sarcastic himself) on the outside, suspicious on the inside and that much he tries to convey in a subtle side-glance to Dtirae before he fixes his attention back on their “host”. The remark on helping themselves though has him giving the young boy a long, questioning look, brows knitting into a slight frown. “While I’m certain your hold does have some items of interest, we’re not here to trade,” And that word is stressed, before he continues, “We are here to deliver supplies.”

Dtirae continues focusing her gaze on the younger boy, returning the stare that he gives and even going so far as to mimic his standing pose. Her face is completely blank, not even the slightest twitch of emotion. When Th’ero retorts to the boy’s statement, she merely continues to keep up her pose. She misses the look given to her from the Weyrleader, which is unfortunate, as she’s continuing to go about her mimicking act until finally she grows bored and gives the kid a rather pointed look. “Look, ‘m certain you think bad things of riders. You probably heard stories or somethin’ of someone takin’ advantage of a cothold. And, as far as I know, Fort ain’t one of the Weyrs that takes advantage of anyone. And if a rider did happen ta take advantage of you, you tell us and ‘m sure we can make sure they ain’t goin’ ta bother you again.”

The boy meets Th’ero’s gaze with a stony expression, and then he snorts. “Give out charity, more like,” he says, eying the bags and crates strapped to the dragons’ sides. There’s interest in his eyes, but he tries to hide it behind his bitterness. Eyes flick back to Dtirae, and his lips twist up into a parody of a grin. “How noble of you, m’lady,” he says, sarcasm dripping from his tone with the brazen hue of youth’s arrogance.

“Not that there have been reports of any,” And the last word is stressed, “Of the Weyrs taking advantage of any holdings, thankfully.” Th’ero interjects neatly moments after Dtirae has finished. He had let the mimicking act slide, but now the Weyrleader gives what appears to be a vague smile and harmless look when in reality his brown eyes flash with a subtle warning to the young goldrider. “But Dtirae is correct. If there is word that any rider has overstepped their bounds, please inform us.” Th’ero meets the boy’s continued stony expression with a neutral one of his own, though his emotions are anything but calm. He keeps his attention focused on him while he speaks, cautious and observant to the last detail. “I suppose one could consider it charity. Or, it could be considered nothing more then what would normally be due, were it not for the season.” He offers calmly enough to counter the youth’s arrogance and sarcasm. The Weyrleader then waits, head up and taking his turn now to stare back at the boy expectantly, his only movement the slight shift of his weight to keep the worst of the cold from seeping into his boots.

Dtirae looks to the boy as he again mouths off, lips twitching in the slightest bit bot certainly not heading towards a smile so much as a frown. Her arms fold across her chest once more as she stares down the boy. There’s no response right away, mostly for the fact that Th’ero is giving her that subtle warning. Her lips twitch again, cheeks puffing up briefly before her gaze flickers back to the boy. Silence continues from the goldrider as Th’ero takes the more diplomatic response to the boy’s dislike of the situation.

The boy continues to grin and gives his head a shake. “Riders overstep their bounds by-” But before the youth can continue, a man in his mid-30′s strides up and clouts him alongside the head with a well-aimed backhand. The blow isn’t that hard, but it’s enough to send the boy slightly off balance, stumbling before he turns to glare at the older man. “You go help your mother,” the man orders. There’s a brief stare down, and then with a final glare to all the adults, the teen straightens and strides off. The man watches him go and then huffs, shaking his head and extending a calloused hand to Th’ero. “Begging your pardon, Weyrleader, but my nephew’s been a bit touchy since his older brother and sister went off to the weyr and realized they didn’t want to come home again. Ma’am,” he adds, nodding to Dtirae and offering her his hand as well. “My sister told me you had some salted fish for us, and we thank you for it. We’ve got some llama wool to send with you, to take to the higher cotholds, in exchange.”

Th’ero spares a moment to cast his glance towards Dtirae and gives the younger goldrider a brisk, quick nod to reassure her. This isn’t the easiest of situations and even the Weyrleader is having some difficulty holding back his tongue. So as the youth begins his next sarcastic remark, he’s bracing for it, only to have to hold back his look of surprise when the older man arrives just in time to clout the young boy. Th’ero smiles slightly then, whether in approval of the disipline or for the older man’s remarks; it’s hard to tell. “No offense taken. He’s young and it’s understandable that he may be upset given that his siblings have left.” He tells the holder, reaching out to grasp the man’s calloused hand within his gloved one in a firm shake. No doubt the Weyrleader can sympathize a little too and some of it may show in his expression. Stepping back so that the older man can introduce himself to Dtirae as well, Th’ero only nods his head, leaving the verbal confirmation to the young goldrider to handle.

Dtirae looks ready to burst when the boy starts up again, and luckily, before she can open her mouth an older man is already delivering the blow to the boy’s head. A breath is drawn, a slow intake as she quickly draws into a relaxed state rather than tense as she was moments before. Not that she noticed. And while apologies are given, she makes no visible reaction until called ‘ma’am’, visibly startling the young woman into accepting the offered hand. The reassurances offered by the Weyrleader are noted and she smiles slightly in response before she’s drawing her hands back and allowing them to settle at her side. “That is correct, Velokraeth has the crates. ‘m certain they’ll ‘ppreciate the wool in exchange.” It’s a rather awkward confirmation with the young woman’s cheeks flushing, mainly from frustration and parts of embarrassment.

The man takes a moment to size both riders up, memorizing their faces before he looks to their dragons to memorize them as well. It bodes a man well to be able to recognize his Weyr’s leadership on sight, even if he’s only met them once before in his lifetime. “Which crate is for us?” he asks, nodding towards the dragons but making no movement to go closer. Call it a healthy dose of nervousness, or respect. Either way, he’s not moving closer until he’s invited to.

As his name is mentioned, or perhaps from a gentle prodding from Th’ero, Velokraeth shifts from his position in the deeper snows, coming to settle himself in a more easily accessible angle. The misshapen bronze then holds himself in the least intimidating manner, even if it might be a touch uncomfortable. The Weyrleader quietly watches the exchange between Dtirae and the holder, tension visibly leaving his posture and his once at ease smile returning as he gestures for both the older man and the young goldrider to follow him. “Just these few tethered here,” Th’ero explains, pointing to the crates that are, perhaps mercifully, located fairly low on the straps. Noticing the holder’s reluctance to approach right away, he begins to undo the fastenings on one of the crates, leaving it easily accessible for a quick approach and grab should the older holder still not be too comfortable around Velokraeth for long. “And as Dtirae already mentioned, the wool I’m sure would be appreciated in exchange and your offer is greatly appreciated.”

The fact that the man keeps his distance from the dragons is noted before she nods to Zuvaleyuth. The gold settles down, not standing on her guard as she had with the boy and instead taking a more comfortable position (or, as much as she can without damaging the goods). Dtirae looks to Th’ero, questioning but slowly relaxing when she sees the smile. She then follows after him, dutifully and silently. Once the crates are taken away and the man departs, the young goldrider visibly relaxes once more, heaving a soft sigh. She doesn’t linger near Th’ero, and instead, retreats to the comfort of her lifemate that isn’t as comforting as one may assume.

The man accepts the crates of salted fish with thanks, and another boy brings out the two bags of llama wool. Then the riders are left to their own devices to wait for Elara’s return.

Th’ero finds his source of relaxing from the previous youth’s bitterness and sarcasm through simple tasks it seems. The Weyrleader has the crates unloaded in no time and with a last fair well, Th’ero wishes the holder and the cothold in general well before turning to give Velokraeth a gentle pat to the forearm. The bronze merely snorts, turning his head slightly away as he waits impatiently for the llama wool to be packed and loaded to his straps. The moment the task is done, the pale bronze shifts with a relieved groan to a preferred position. The Weyrleader turns then as well, but not without a long given to his lifemate. Now that they have a few moments of relative privacy, he slowly approaches Dtirae where she’s retreated to the comfort of her gold. “Unsettling, isn’t it, when you’re not received with good graces?” Th’ero remarks dryly and in a low voice, not exactly making a joke of the situation but trying to lower some of the remaining tension. “Bluntness isn’t always the key, however. The boy irked me as much as he did you.” He points out with a smirk.

Dtirae’s hands rest on her lifemate, taking comfort in the presence of the gold. She doesn’t say anything right away as he speaks, grey eyes staring at the hide around her hands before she eventually shifts to level Th’ero with a blank look. “It ain’t just the bein’ treated rudely. Don’t care ’bout that. He can hate us if he wants ta.” Dei mutters softly in response, turning her gaze back to her lifemate. “I know it ain’t… I just reacted b’fore Zuvaleyuth could remind me not ta jump like that… It ain’t that, though. It’s all of it. I ain’t suited for this. Ta speak all… Diplomatically ‘n stuff. I don’t know what ta say most of the time, and I get flustered… When Zuva starts tryin’ ta tell me what ta say, she’s goin’ off in her long tangent and I ain’t got enough time ta translate it all b’fore respondin’ ta them without standin’ there ‘n lookin’ stupid.”

Th’ero is patient, so Dtirae’s initial pause in looking to him or answering goes uncontested with the Weyrleader. When she does glance his way, he only keeps his features neutral, though as she goes on to explain her behavior, he exhales deeply and a small, understanding, smile curves along his lips. “It’s a lot to take in, all at once. It’s frustrating and unsettling, but unfortunately something you can’t avoid.” Th’ero murmurs and a touch sympathetic near the end to the young goldrider’s plight, both to her lack of experience and perhaps Zuvaleyuth’s colorful way of speech. “You’ve much to learn and I won’t lie. You will undoubtedly blunder. Not even I was able to avoid that and you would know what I speak of.” He points out cryptically, mouth curving up into a bit of a wry smirk. “You only need the confidence. Then you may find things come easier.” Clearing his throat then, Th’ero seems fresh out of advice for Dtirae and instead lets it awkwardly end there. Where most may have perhaps gone on to compliment, the Weyrleader seems to hesitate and not meant to be a slight against her. As a gust of wind picks up, Th’ero mutters a soft curse under his breath, tucking his hands up under his arms. “I hope all is well with Elara and the injured holder.” He says in way of changing the subject, head turning to glance towards the hold proper in mild concern and curiosity.

Dtirae frowns visibly, not hiding the emotions that she’s feeling. Uncertainty is one of the bigger ones, there. But, the understanding words, and the fact that she will probably make mistakes bring a little comfort to the goldrider. “It’s hard ta be confident ’bout somethin’ I ain’t sure what ta do in all the time. Huntin’ and leadin’ the hunts were easier.” She leans against her lifemate, again taking comfort in the gold’s presence and staying in silence as the advice ends. It takes a few moments for her to draw away and collect herself once more, looking towards the hold with a frown settling on her brows.

Elara makes her way out the gates and towards the waiting riders not long after that, bundled up in her riding gear and with her gloves on, her Healer satchel held in one hand. “Sorry,” she apologizes as she approaches, “he took a nasty fall and needed some stitches. I’ll have to send someone in a few days to check in on him, and then later to get them removed. How did everything go out here?” she asks, looking from Weyrleader to Goldrider with a little smile.

Dtirae frowns visibly, not hiding the emotions that she’s feeling. Uncertainty is one of the bigger ones, there. But, the understanding words, and the fact that she will probably make mistakes bring a little comfort to the goldrider. “It’s hard ta be confident ’bout somethin’ I ain’t sure what ta do in all the time. Huntin’ and leadin’ the hunts were easier.” She leans against her lifemate, again taking comfort in the gold’s presence and staying in silence as the advice ends. It takes a few moments for her to draw away and collect herself once more, looking towards the hold with a frown settling on her brows.

Elara makes her way out the gates and towards the waiting riders not long after that, bundled up in her riding gear and with her gloves on, her Healer satchel held in one hand. “Sorry,” she apologizes as she approaches, “he took a nasty fall and needed some stitches. I’ll have to send someone in a few days to check in on him, and then later to get them removed. How did everything go out here?” she asks, looking from Weyrleader to Goldrider with a little smile.

“Leading hunts and helping leading the Weyr do run parallel to each other. There are some similarities.” Th’ero notes with a dry chuckle. Never mind that hunts are easy and the management of a Weyr is anything but. “It will come with time.” He reassures Dtirae once more, before falling silent to his thoughts as well. The Weyrleader doesn’t turn to Velokraeth for comfort, though he does gives him a questioning look when the pale bronze begins to fidget and rumble low in his throat. Before he can comment though, he catches sight of Elara making her way from the gates. Relief briefly flickers to his features, but it’s quickly buried again and replaced by a subdued smile. “Good to hear he’ll recover. I’m sure there will be no issue in sending someone back to check on his health.” At the mention of their own luck with the delivery, Th’ero’s smile falters and the Weyrleader clears his throat again, trying hard not to smirk though a frown does settle on his brow. “Well enough, despite the rough start thanks to a young boy’s bitterness.” And he turns his head a little to Dtirae now, tilting his head in a gesture for the goldrider to continue.

Dtirae smiles at Elara as she approaches, shaking her head for the apology given by the elder goldrider. “It’s okay. You were helpin’ someone who got hurt.” Dei offers, her gaze briefly returning to Th’ero for his hunting comment. Lips press into a thin line in consideration of his words but she says nothing aside from the slight nod of understanding whether or not she’s drawing the connection between the two. Hands tuck into her jacket pocket once more, saying nothing more as Th’ero responds to Elara. When he looks to her, however, to fill in the rest her gaze is less than friendly. “We exchanged the fish for llama wool ta bring back ta the higher up cotholds.”

Elara looks between the other two with a curious look, and then she sighs. “Tech, yes, I wondered if he’d come out.” She shakes her head with a sad smile. “His mother told me that his older brother and sister both were searched for a Fort clutch a few clutches back, and when they didn’t Impress they decided to stay. Renounced their home, the boy gave up his birthright to this cothold, the girl refused a match her father made for her and weyrmated a rider who dropped her a few months after – and she was pregnant…you can’t blame the boy for being bitter,” she says with another sigh, shaking her head. “On to the next, then,” she says, walking to Wiyaneth’s side and spending a few moments rubbing the aging queen’s wing before she mounts up. Wiyaneth rumbles softly, offering the image of the next cothold to the two younger dragons.

Th’ero only shakes his head a little at Dtirae’s less then friendly recount of the events, but then Elara begins to elaborate on the young boy’s past. The Weyrleader grimaces then, perhaps in some grudging sympathy for Tech. “No, I don’t blame him for being bitter at all.” He agrees with a smirk, though he can’t mask his curiosity fast enough. Indeed, Th’ero is most likely wondering whom the brother and sister are, perhaps even the rider involved. He won’t ask for those details now and perhaps won’t at all if he happens to forget by the time the day is done. Nodding, Th’ero flashes Dtirae a quick look and an equally quick spoken, “Ready?” before double-checking Velokraeth’s straps to be sure nothing has shifted during the bronze’s impatient and uncomfortable shuffling. Assured nothing is amiss, he mounts up, gathering his helmet and buckling in while his lifemate receives the required coordinates from Wiyaneth.

Dtirae lets out a soft oh to the story of what happened with the boy’s siblings, saying nothing more than that. Whether or not she blames the boy is kept to herself, instead, simply nodding for the statement to move on. Th’ero’s shaking of his head is missed, more for the fact that she is lost in her own thoughts for a moment until the question is asked in her direction. She nods once more and then quietly mounts, giving Zuvaleyuth a loving pat before they depart.

The next three cotholds are routine and follow the same sort of pattern. They arrive, Elara makes introductions, the cotholders are polite and grateful for the supplies, and they move on to the next one. It might be noted that nothing is given away for free, though. There is always a trade made, though the trades involve something that the cothold has in abundance, while the riders provide something that is greatly needed. After finishing their stop at the fourth cothold, Elara motions Th’ero and Dtirae closer, eying her lifemate with a worried look. “She can’t make the next trip,” she says softly to the two younger riders. “Her wing is hurting too much, and it’s starting to get colder with the sun going down, and windier. If it’s okay with you,” she says to Th’ero, deferring to his leadership, “I’d like to return to the weyr, and you two can make the last delivery on your own.” What remains is a crate of salted fish and the llama wool. “It’s a tiny little cothold – just a few families – but they’re the most inaccessible.” She is quiet for a moment, her brows furrowed in worry. “The landing is tricky. The crosswinds can be vicious. So. Be careful.”

As before, Velokraeth settles into his own routine of allowing Wiyaneth to depart first and then following, but lingering back until Zuvaleyuth has vanished Between before following suit. Th’ero has no doubt picked up on the pattern by now, but the Weyrleader also has tagged along on previous trade routes, just not to these remote locations. Even so, the bronzerider seems relaxed for the most part as each visit is met with no issues and the exchanges are pleasant enough. Finishing with the fourth cothold, Th’ero is checking his straps again while Velokraeth flexes and fidgets with his forearms, the bronze rumbling and grumbling to himself. Catching Elara’s motion to join her from the corner of his eye, he gives the pale bronze a quick thump to his side before wandering closer. “Of course. We can finish up here.” Th’ero assures her, concern also in his eyes as he glances sharply towards Wiyaneth. At the mention of crosswinds, the Weyrleader’s expression turns a little grim, but he nods his head in understanding. “And we will be cautious. Is there a favorable spot to land?” he asks, no doubt wishing for the clearest idea of where they are going and what options they have, should the winds prove to be as vicious as warned.

The drop offs and pickups are all watched curiously, though her own responses to the cotholders are lame, she does listen to what Elara and Th’ero have to say to each one of them. The actual experience of the process is unexpected, different from what a weyrbrat without a care in the world would imagine. Even when playing Hold and Weyr, the depth that it actually goes to is very complex. The complexity wears on the younger goldrider, however, as Dtriae seems to grow more and more on edge. When Elara gestures them closer, she’s frowning at the words spoken and then considering the older goldrider. Hands return to her pockets and she says nothing, more for the fact that it isn’t her decision or place to make any sort of addition. Instead, she listens in silence to the pair.

Wiyaneth snorts, the old queen shifting and clearly irritated that she won’t be going, despite the pain that lingers on the edges of her thoughts like a gathering summer storm. She shares the location with the bronze and her granddaughter, the cothold against a steep cliff, windswept and rather desolate, though there is a narrow box canyon nearby that offers shelter for the cothold’s summer crops and their animals. “I would land well clear of the cliffs,” Elara advises, “and have your dragons walk up to the cothold. It’d be good for the cotholders, too. They’re a bit…skittish. The man you’re looking for’s name is Ezra. He was the head six months ago, when I visited last.” She smiles faintly at the two riders, looking a little frustrated as well. But she shakes it off with a faint smile. “Be safe. If Kimmila’s back at Fort I’ll tell her you’ll be along shortly,” she tells Th’ero, before she offers Dtirae’s arm a squeeze and turns back to her lifemate so the pair can lumber painfully into the sky and vanish between, returning to Fort.

Unaware of the uneasiness building in Dtirae, Th’ero’s attention is currently focused to Elara and Wiyaneth as the older queen shifts in an irritated manner. Velokraeth croons softly from where he waits, voice tapering off to a low rumble as the pale bronze no doubt offers a few silently shared words with Wiyaneth. With the location shared, the Weyrleader takes on a thoughtful and distracted look, no doubt going over the visualization points in his mind and merging the information Elara just shared. “Agreed. We will approach then on foot for the delivery. And we will not linger too long in the air, less the winds turn on us.” Th’ero says with a reassuring look given to the retired goldrider, nodding his head as names are given. “Be safe as well. And… my thanks.” He finishes a touch awkwardly, unable to hold back the smirk to the offer. It is appreciated, but it seems the Weyrleader is still a little touchy in discussing her daughter. He’ll wait, shielding his eyes, as Elara and Wiyaneth depart, moving only when they vanish safely between. Exhaling heavily, Th’ero turns to Dtirae then, mouth drawn into a thin line. “Ready for this? We’ll keep the flying to a minimum and land some distance from the cothold itself, as Elara suggested. And I want you and Zuvaleyuth to follow Velokraeth down, unless the crosswinds are too vicious. Understood?” He’ll wait only for her confirmation and despite the instructions, seems fairly confident that the younger pair will manage just fine. Th’ero will mount up then, both he and his bronze eager to finish up, before the sun begins to dip lower and the temperature with it.

Dtirae jumps at the contact before she smiles in Elara’s direction, nodding once and then watching her depart. Her gaze lingers there a moment longer before attention is drawn back to Th’ero. Her look mimics his for a moment, lips pressed into a thin line before she slowly relaxes. “Ready.” It is a soft confirmation before she’s fixing up her riding gear, despite the fact that they won’t be in the air too long. “Understood. What should we do if it is too strong?”

“Then we take evasive measures.” Th’ero replies in a tone that speaks volumes on the Weyrleader’s hopes that they will not be faced with measures that dire. “Between back to the forest clearing outside of Fort. Should be quiet there and we won’t have to be concerned with the possible traffic of the bowls.” And any unnecessary worries or chaos caused by their abrupt arrival. But Th’ero leaves that unvoiced, as he has Velokraeth share the coordinates with Zuvaleyuth just for good measure. When he’s certain both of them are ready, Th’ero gives the signal to fly. Gathering himself, the pale bronze launches up into the air, lingering long enough only to gain the necessary altitude and for the Weyrleader to check to be sure the young goldrider is following before vanishing Between.

Dtirae nods once for his reply, and then for the plan of action for if that should happen. With no more questions, she moves to mount up again once Zuvaleyuth is pleased with the coordinates given. There’s a gentle pat to Zuvaleyuth, comforting herself and her lifemate before they are taking off into the air and following the Weyrleader between.

The wind gusts when they emerge from between, and though no snow falls, the clouds up here are threatening and foreboding. With the sun nearly set, the cold is chilling and the area truly desolate. One might wonder why there is a cothold up here in the first place. From this distance the cothold looks deserted, with no smoke rising from the chimney and no lights visible. Though with things so closed up against the cold, it’s possible it’s just not showing through the thick stone and wood construction.

Emerging from Between, Velokraeth makes a hasty adjustment as the wind gusts up to meet them. The bronze has to drop sharply in order to evade the worst of it, growling and grumbling as he does and no doubt showering rider and Zuvaleyuth alike with a smattering of sarcasm on their luck and the desolate location before falling silent. Th’ero frowns from where he sits, turning his head to glance down at the closed, seemingly deserted and eerily remote cothold as Velokraeth wings away towards the valley Elara had instructed to use. Landing heavily, the bronze folds his wings and cranes his oversized head to watch Zuvaleyuth while the Weyrleader is left to brood in his thoughts. Something has the bronzerider’s back up and he draws the collar of his riding jacket up higher over his face, partially masking the grim line his mouth has settled in. He doesn’t dismount for now; with the snows being so deep it would only hinder either of them to try walking at this point. So he’ll wait until the young gold lands and joins them, before turning to Dtirae, raising his voice to be heard over the wind. “We will walk from here, mounted. Keep your eyes open for anything.” He tells her, backing up his words with gestures to be sure the message isn’t lost. With a low groan, Velokraeth grudgingly begins to walk ahead, his usually awkward waddling gait made all the worse thanks to snow.

Though the winds were expected, Zuvaleyuth doesn’t adjust quite as quickly as her clutch sire, but she does recover gracefully, at least. Sarcasm from Velokraeth is met with soothing, though long winded, words before she falls silent to focus on her positioning. While Th’ero frowns at the sight of the cothold, Dtirae thinks nothing of it and her expression doesn’t change at all. When the bronze wings away to their instructed place, Zuva does not hesitate to follow, landing gently and as gracefully as one can with the wind that is around them. When Th’ero doesn’t dismount, the goldrider doesn’t either, following his lead. The words, though heard, are faint and the gestures earn a hand lifting to signify that she understands. Zuva is not immune to the groaning this time, however, and is quite verbal about her dislike of the crystallized droplets of live giving liquid upon the ground to such heights in which it hinders the limbs abilities to perform as intended.

The silence is complete, other than the noises they make and the rising noise of the wind. The blanket of white that covers the ground is unmarred, the crust of ice frozen on top that crunches with each step. As the sun sinks below the horizon the temperature drops sharply, and still the cothold shows no signs of life. Trees flank the stone walls of the hold backed up against the cliffs, their evergreen branches shaking free the weight of the snow with each gust of wind, swaying and scraping softly against the stone they stand beside. A wall encloses the main cothold building, its iron gate resting open.

Velokraeth rumbles low in his throat now, almost voicing another groan only this time it may be towards Zuvaleyuth’s long worded complain on the snow. The bronze falls silent then though, concentrating on his movements as he works a path through the unmarred snow and ice. That detail doesn’t go unnoticed by Th’ero either and as the sun begins to sink and the temperature drops sharply, so does the Weyrleader’s mood. Alert now, he has Velokraeth find the clearest spot possible before coming to a stop. Even the pale bronze is silent now, mismatched eyes surveying the silent cothold uneasily. Th’ero dismounts then, breaking through the crust of untouched snow. Breath streaming out now in a thick plume, the Weyrleader is frowning heavily, his disquiet showing in his eyes as they linger on the open gate and the lack of any sign of life. By habit alone, one of his hands drifts up along his side, no doubt in reassurance to the dagger he has hidden inside. No fool to go without it, but neither a fool to brazenly wear it out in the open when his duties were suppose to be nothing more then supplies runs. Turning then, almost wincing at how loud event hat movement sounds, he waits tensely on Dtirae, his hand relaxing back to his side. No sense shouting over the wind now, he won’t speak up until the goldrider approaches. “Something isn’t right.” Th’ero bluntly remarks, not bothering to hide his concerns. “No marks in the snow, no signs at all that a single soul – human or animal – are even here. What do you think?” he asks her, focusing on her now and not so much the dark hold.

Groans from the bronze go pointedly ignored, more for the fact that she’s focusing on not falling than anything else. Her movement are careful, making sure that there is no possible way in which she could slip. Dtirae’s silent, still, her gaze on the Weyrleader with the help of her goggles keeping the wind from bothering her face and eyes. Fingers begin to curl around the straps as she slowly begins to take in the details of the cothold and the silence that comes from it. The fact that it looks like no one has entered of left, does not go unnoticed and beneath the covering of her scarf, lips press into a very thin line. Zuvaleytuh settles to the side of Velokraeth to make conversation easier between the two. Dei lifts a hand to pull the scarf away from her mouth and she nods. “Ain’t any tracks anywhere. They coulda left already, knowin’ the winter’d be bad.” There’s a pause for a moment before she also adds: “They could all be dead.”

As the clouds shift and the light changes from sunset to moonlight, something becomes visible near that open iron gate. A long, dark smudge. It could be a shadow, or it could be something else entirely.

“That is a possibility, that this is a seasonal cothold.” Th’ero admits thoughtfully, words now partially muffled by the fabric of his high collared jacket as he turns his head up towards Dtirae. Her next comment earns a heavier frown and while it’s unseen, his mouth draws down even further. Clearly, that thought had also crossed the Weyrleader’s mind. “Lets hope not. Elara mentioned she had been here a few months prior and all seemed well then.” Velokraeth snorts sharply then and Th’ero’s gaze darts back sharply towards the gate. He then glances up towards the darkening sky, perhaps thankful for the moonlight yet uneasy all the same. “This requires some investigation.” Reaching into his jacket, his dagger is retrieved and he sheath buckled on the outside of his gear. The blade itself remains buckled in and Th’ero gestures for Dtirae to dismount and follow. With the snow as deep as it is, the Weyrleader’s progress is slow going, but the younger goldrider will have his path to follow at least. His movements slow as the long, dark smudge is spotted and without looking behind him, Th’ero motions for Dtirae to stop. “Hello?” The Weyrleader calls out, his posture tensed and on guard alert for any sign of movement aside from wind and snow. “Is there anyone here? We’re riders, from Fort Weyr.” Rank seems to have been purposely omitted as he takes a tentative step forwards towards the gate, then another.

Dtirae lifts her scarf again, covering her mouth and lingering in silence as Th’ero responds. There’s no need for words as she waits on his command, nodding when he gives the note for investigation of the scene and the cothold. She dismounts, slowly before dropping down into the snow and making her way after the Weyrleader. Any other time, it is likely that she would insist the take the lead rather than hiding behind a man. Her hand is already dropping to one of her knives, on her guard and constantly watching their surroundings but never moving from the spot in which she was signaled to stop.

While the winds and snows have erased all traces of what happened here outside the walls, inside the courtyard it’s a different story. Sheltered from the drifts by those high stone walls, the courtyard only has a light dusting of snow, so the tale is clear. Clear/er/, at least. The dark smudge is blood, gleaming frozen and red, and it’s not the only spot in the courtyard. Whatever bled here left tracks as…he? She? It? dragged itself towards the cothold doors. That trail through the snow ends abruptly with another larger pool, and then whatever it was was dragged off to a corner of the courtyard, where other misshapen lumps are piled beneath an icy, snowy blanket. Other dark and frozen pools glisten throughout the courtyard, the ground torn from whatever fight happened here. At Th’ero’s call, there is silence at first before a young voice calls through the locked and barred door. “S-s-show me your dragon!”

As Th’ero takes a few more tentative steps forwards, the smudge on the snow is inspected again and he freezes. His only signal to Dtirae that something is very wrong is his hand coming up to slip his dagger from it’s sheath, gloved fingers tightening into a firm grip over the hilt. His stance drops as well, training from Turns before as a guard kicking in much like a second nature as he’s instantly prepared for the worse. Glancing back over his shoulder to the younger goldrider, Th’ero motions for her to stick close and murmurs low to her once she’s within earshot. “Blood.” He tells her grimly, her earlier guess proving to be true, it seems. “Best to be cautious here. If things get…bad, I don’t want heroics on your part. Run.” And from his tone, Th’ero will not budge from that order. Giving her a long, level look, he eventually moves forwards again, passing the first open gate. Th’ero’s keen gaze catches the other gleaming marks in the courtyard and the misshapen lumps. His expression a frozen and cold mask, it’s hard to tell what emotions cross the Weyrleader, but he is certainly tensed and wary, moving very slowly and cautiously over the snow. Back in the valley, Velokraeth is on his feet, head lowered and an almost silent growl rumbling in his throat. The pale bronze is as tensed as his rider, wings unfurling, tail twitching and his eyes whirling with hints of yellow and red. “They’re back in the valley.” Th’ero replies to the young voice. Then and as if just on cue, Velokraeth lets out a clear, hard to mistake, call that echoes across the otherwise quiet and deserted area. Waiting until the sound dies down, the Weyrleader begins his slow advance, eyes darting and keenly alert for any suspicious movement now. “What’s happened here?” he calls out again, though the evidence should be clear enough.

Dtirae can’t see everything from behind Th’ero, making sure to keep a good distance between herself and the Weyrleader. It was easier to avoid mishaps when there was ample space between people, especially when both had knives. Her hand remains on her own, slowly drawing her from the sheath as the Weyrleader does so. When he motions for her to come in closer, however, she doesn’t hesitate to close the distance. The gesture to the blood is met with a frown and her gaze settles down on the ground where it is. It is the warning that takes her off guard, however and the young woman looks briefly startled before giving in with a nod. Zuvaleyuth is more important than risking herself. She is quick to remain on his trail, keeping watch and making sure not to be caught off guard. The gold in the valley is less vocal than Velokraeth, though on edge, and her form tense, she does not look entirely ready to pounce so much as she’s ready to go chasing after her lifemate. Dtirae doesn’t respond to the voice, allowing Th’ero to handle it all, and she instead, scans the area, searching for the owner of the voice.

Things go quiet once more, the trees scraping against the stone as a stronger gust of wind blows. Velokraeth’s roar echoes into silence and there is a long moment where nothing comes from the cothold. Then, slowly, there is a scraping sound as a bar is lifted, the door unlocked, and then it opens a crack. “S’cold outside,” the young voice says, high-pitched with fear but /probably/ the voice of a boy. “R-real cold,” he continues. He is not visible, but the slightly open door is an invitation of sorts, the interior lit with the warm, flickering glow of a fire.

In the lingering silence, Th’ero pauses again and when nothing moves, he tilts his head down to glance behind him again and to Dtirae as she continues to follow him. The Weyrleader then gestures sharply for her to stop as the sound of something scraping has him tensing and prepared. But it’s only a door being opened and while he doesn’t relax an inch, Th’ero does turn towards the sudden light in the dark, brown eyes narrowed in suspicion. “It is very cold.” Th’ero agrees, noting how young the voice seems. Young and fearful, he’s assuming. “What has happened here?” The Weyrleader asks again, glancing again to Dtirae as he does, waiting to see if the goldrider has anything to say or for any gestures on her part. For now, the invitation to come inside is evaded.

Dtirae stills at the signal to stop in addition to the sound of something scraping. She stills and then turns her gaze to where the boy is, the door opening and she tenses. Her hand reaches out, the one not holding the knife to tug at the Weyrleader’s jacket. “I have a bad feeling.” She murmurs softly, slowly releasing him after a moment.

The boy stays hidden inside, and there is another long silence. “Who are you?” he suddenly demands, his voice changing from scared and meek to hard and angry. “W-we got nothin’ left! Nothin’! M-mom says when we got n-nothin, y-you will leave us a-alone. So go! A-and give m-my dad back.” Towards the end his pitch lifts as fear enters his voice once more. Then his voice drops to a soft, tenuous whisper, filled with fear and hope. “S’he with y’r dragon?” Then his head peeks around the doorway. He’s young, no more than ten turns old, with curly brown hair cropped close to his scalp, and eyes that gleam brown and gold in the available light. His face is round, and it seems his nose has been broken – though recently or sometime in the past is difficult to tell. He’s dirty, and his eyes dart around at the riders, then to the pile of Things in the corner, and back to the riders. “You’re too late,” he whispers, voice a little haunted and hollow. “Too late, m-my mom said. S-said riders’d c-come. B-but you’re l-late.”

The tug to his jacket draws his attention away from the open door and the foreboding scene in the courtyard as Th’ero slowly turns his head back and down to regard Dtirae. “So do I. The danger may have passed though.” He murmurs in a low voice to the young goldrider and perhaps silently cursing this cothold’s remote location. As the boy’s voice returns, the hard and angry tone he suddenly takes has the Weyrleader focusing sharply on the door again. “We’re not here to harm you or take anything.” He calls out, trying to mask the uneasiness in his own voice, advancing again, one slow step after the other until he emerges from the shadows and more into the light both from the door and the moons above. Casting a quick glance to Dtirae, he nods for her to do the same, disturbed by the boy’s claim but finding no looming threat. Th’ero raises his hands up then, palms turned outwards once he’s slipped his dagger back into its sheath. Defenseless and exposed, it’s meant to be a gesture of good faith, if not a little reckless. “He isn’t with Velokraeth, no. I’m sorry. But we are not here to do harm,” The Weyrleader repeats again, gentler, once the boy finally steps out. One quick glance is all Th’ero needs to start gleaming pieces to a puzzle and neither does he bother hiding the grim look etched on his features. At the haunted whisper, the bronzerider does recoil a little in surprise, blinking as he turns to Dtirae, then back to the boy. “Too late?” Th’ero echoes and then his voice drops, tone flat and a little hard. “Where is Ezra? And is your mother still here?” Deeply troubled now, Th’ero’s focus fixates on the frightened child, no doubt seconds from having Velokraeth and Zuvaleyuth alarm the Weyr if no answers come forth.

Dtirae frowns as the boy responds, saying nothing for the moment, and instead lingering behind Th’ero and listening. She again reaches for Th’ero, tugging on his jacket a bit before murmuring. “Renegades or Holdless.” She points out softly, though she’s releasing his jacket once he begins advancing. She doesn’t move, if only for the fact that she is checking out their surroundings before he’s gesturing for her to follow. Her dagger doesn’t go away, however, but her steps do not follow the Weyrleader’s any longer, starting to stray off to look for hints despite the fact that the snow covers most of what would give them a hint.

The boy stares at Th’ero for a moment, confusion showing in his pale green eyes. “I’m Ezra,” he answers quietly, though he’s clearly not the Ezra that Elara told them to ask for. Those eyes dart around nervously into the courtyard, and a gust of wind has the boy retreating further away from the door, into the relative warmth and safety of the building. “I d-don’t know where M-mom is. I heard… But I w-was h-hiding.” His hand lifts to point into the darkness at the back of the building, where the light from the small fire doesn’t reach. “D-do you have food?” he whispers, hope edging into his voice again. The courtyard holds many hints that haven’t yet been swept away or covered by snow. It seems to have been a fairly recent thing – a few days, perhaps. There are no tracks, persay, but the ground is scuffed and jumbled where many feet have tread, and things have been drug. Most Things seem to have ended up in the corner of the courtyard, piled against the wall and covered in a layer of snow.

As before, Th’ero’s attention pulls away from the young boy when Dtirae tugs on his jacket. Turning his head slightly to face the goldrider but also keeping an eye on the child, the Weyrleader’s expression darkens all the more. “This reeks more of renegades then mere holdless.” He replies just as soft and low. Down in the valley, Velokraeth hisses and the pale bronze begins to slowly advance closer, though still keeping enough space for him to manevure swiftly if need be. Back in the cothold, Th’ero turns to face the young Ezra now, surprise flickering across his features again. He comes to the same assumption that this boy must be the elder Ezra’s son. Distracted, he’s unaware that Dtirae has moved off to investigate on her own. As the gust of wind has the boy retreating, the Weyrleader holds out a hand in a reassuring gesture. “Hiding? From what, Ezra?” he asks gently, though his voice is low and his face still as grimly set as before. As the boy points, his gaze will follow, narrowing to make out the details in the dark. It’s the pile of Things that has the Weyrleader the most concerned at the moment and it shows as clear as day on his features. Th’ero won’t fake a smile, it seems. “We have some salted fish and other supplies. Are you hungry?” Won’t fake a smile, but will bribe with food. With his eyes turning back to focus on Ezra, Dtirae is left with even more precious seconds to investigate, before the Weyrleader will clue in to her absence by his side.

Dtirae doesn’t hear the response from the boy, more entranced on her findings on the ground. Brows are drawn into a frown as she looks over the markings on the ground noting the details about how the markings are. As a hunter, this all is familiar to her. Her gaze lifts to where the things have ended up and she begins to start over there while Th’ero is distracted. Her steps are light, attempting not to make too much noise in the snow and draw attention to her investigation. Zuvaleyuth is stalking after Velokraeth, silent and making sure that she is able to take off to reach her lifemate should she be required to take off quickly. The gold, however, gives no indication that Dei is straying away from the Weyrleader.

Ezra glances down and shifts his weight, the gesture reminiscent of a child being called out for misbehaving. “From them,” he whispers. “An f-from the n-noises,” he stammers, shivering and wrapping his arms around his little body. But he is a child, and a starving one at that, with his attention switching completely over to the idea of food. He nods his head a few times and takes a hesitant step towards the door. “Y-yes, please.” Over in the corner, the snow-covered mound waits, not giving up its secrets until someone comes along to start clearing off that layer of snow. Oddly, it’s deeper than the snow that rests in the courtyard itself. There’s a good six inches of snow on the mound, despite there being only two or three inches on the ground. As Dtirae begins to remove the thick layer of snow, what becomes visible first is fabric, black and stiff. And if she continues, she’ll find the hand that extends from that sleeve, equally black and stiff as the jacket that it wore.

“Who are they, Ezra?” Th’ero presses, his tone gentle but firm. The Weyrleader wants answers and he’s about nearing the edge of his patience, despite the poor child’s obvious trauma. So much for fatherly or parental instincts, he’s all stiff and duty bound and perhaps blinded by it. As Ezra approaches the door, Th’ero takes a tentative step forwards a swell. “The salted fish is with my bronze, Velokraeth. We’ll go to him soon and we will have you fed.” And by that, he could very well be subtly hinting he plans to take the boy back to Fort, if the situation is as dire as Th’ero is assuming it to be. “Isn’t that right, Dtirae?” It’s then that the Weyrleader turns to face her, only to realize she isn’t behind him at all. Tensing, it takes only a heartbeat or two for him to spot her again, far off and towards the mound of snow covered Things over in the corner. Bristling, Th’ero mutters a brisk, “Stay here.” to Ezra before moving across the courtyard. Even in his annoyance however, he’s not entirely unobservant, taking note of the ground, the old tracks, any stains or signs. He’s also on the lookout for suspicious movement, but the moment the Weyrleader is close to Dtirae, he locks his gaze on her. Saying nothing, the angry look in his eyes and the expression on his face speak volumes. What does she think she’s doing?

At the first finding, Dtirae is only more curious, but then she’s staring at the hand, black and stiff. She makes no noise, the sound dying before she can even make a peep and the goldrider tenses just a fraction. Self control keeps Zuvaleyuth from reacting right away. She isn’t so distracted as not to notice Th’ero coming up behind her, and even the anger in his eyes isn’t enough to break her from the silence. Instead, she’s slowly pushing herself from her kneeling position and moving towards the Weyrleader, not daring to check over the pile more. She moves in close, reaching out for his jacket and latching on. “There… Th’ero… I think they’re all dead…” She whispers, not daring to raise her voice enough for the boy to hear.

Ezra shakes his head, “I-I d-don’t k-k-know,” he stammers, starting to get overworked and fearful, taking a little step back. “I-I w-want m-my m-m-mom,” he continues, his arms wrapped tightly around himself. When Th’ero gives his order, Ezra’s eyes widen slightly and as the Weyrleader strides away, the boy slips deeper into the cothold, vanishing from sight of the half open front door.

Th’ero wasn’t expecting Dtirae to reach out towards him to latch onto his jacket. He frowns down at her, anger still in his eyes but perhaps now directed elsewhere. “Then it is as bad as I feared.” He intones gravely, lifting his hand to firmly pry himself loose from the goldrider’s hold. Crouching down, he slips his dagger once more from its sheath and begins to carefully use it to scrape away at more of the snow around the now exposed blackened hand. As he works, he speaks quietly to Dtirae, should she not have moved away. “The boy, Ezra. He says he hid but is frightened and can’t seem to give me anything but vague details. He’s hungry though.” Th’ero shares, his eyes never leaving the hand and his dagger as he works carefully, though his lips draw back slightly in disgust. “We should earn his trust. I offered some of the salted fish. But he should be brought somewhere safe.” And by that “somewhere”, the Weyrleader is no doubt intoning Fort Weyr, not Fort Hold, and the silence he lets drift is for where he assumes Dtirae will slip in with her view on the matter.

Dtirae is certainly shaken, but when Th’ero frees himself from her grip, she straightens and quickly tries to clear her mind. Her own dagger is still held tightly in her dominate hand, and she slowly begins to work on relaxing by playing with the dagger. She’s not watching Th’ero work on uncovering the rest of the pile, simply staring quietly at the ground and working the dagger between her hands. She hasn’t moved away, this time, likely have learnt her lesson of where her curiosity gets her. “He ran off.” She points out softly, “I don’t want to go deeper into the cothold. It could be worse… But, we can’t leave him.” Lips press into a thin line and the goldrider kicks at the snow under her feet.

There is silence from the cothold, the door still half open and the fire flickering within. The pile yields up its secrets to Th’ero’s clearing – an arm, a shoulder, a head and glassy green eyes. A slit throat and other wounds, before that body gets tangled with the one beneath.

“He’s terrified and has been hiding alone for Faranth knows how many days. He can’t have run far.” Th’ero remarks grimly and as his work uncovers the grisly remains of the first victim, the Weyrleader settles heavily on his heels. “Damn.” He curses on a heavily exhale, a gloved hand coming up to scrub at his face as his eyes absorb details he’s likely wishing had remained hidden. Disturbed and unsettled once more, he slowly rises to his feet after cleaning his dagger in some of the cleaner snow. The dead can only tell so much and it seems Th’ero has had his fill. “Neither do I. But I suspect we will have to. Not now though. You have a point, it could be worse and who knows what could lurk in the dark.” He tells Dtirae in a continued low tone, slipping his dagger back into its sheath and giving her a long, thoughtful look. “We should find Ezra. Come.” And with that, Th’ero turns to trek back towards the open door, though his movements are slower than before. “Perhaps we can get some answers, then. The Weyr and Hold will have to be notified.” But not, it seems, right this second.

Dtirae is staring at the entrance to the cothold, staying firmly in her spot as she waits on Th’ero to finish with his examination. When he rises, she she is peeking slightly in his direction, not fully putting his gaze on him in fear of what she’ll see. “I think he went back in…” Dtirae points out, gesturing to the open door before she’s following along after him for his instruction to do so. She’s on guard, entirely paranoid and on edge.

There’s no sign of Ezra from the outside of the cothold, the door swinging a bit as the wind picks up. The temperature is plummeting down, and with the wind chill it’s probably well below freezing at this point. That fire sure looks inviting, doesn’t it?

Th’ero is on guard as well, tensed and on edge though not quite as far to paranoia. He’s witnessed death before, but not quite on a scale like this and not from his position. Even so, the Weyrleader casts Dtirae a quick look though his mood and thoughts make him unable to give the goldrider any hint of reassurance beyond the look itself. As the wind picks up and the temperature plummets all the more, Th’ero grimaces. Flexing the fingers of his hand, it would seem the light and the hopes of warmth are inviting enough for him to finally approach the open door. Slowly, he steps up to the threshold, resting a hand on the door to keep it from swinging. With one final glance to be sure Dtirae is with him and reasonably calm and collected, Th’ero then turns his head back towards the inside where warmth awaits them. “Ezra?” he calls, waiting a breath or two before continuing, “We’re back and it’s just us. Are you here?”

Dtirae returns the look, though hers is certainly more flimsy than the one the Weyrleader gives her. She says nothing more, following behind the Weyrleader as he approaches the door. She is, for the most part, collected, and not on the verge of freaking out. While Th’ero looks inside, the woman looks behind her and watches the courtyard. While it looks like no one has been in the area, one can never be too certain.

The fire that burns in the hearth is fueled by broken bits of furniture. Otherwise, the room has been stripped clean. Tapestries are gone, pots and pans, drawers pulled out of their spaces and strewn across the floor. There are other doors that lead to other rooms, but all that awaits there is more destruction and darkness. The firelight only extends so far, and is barely enough to keep the temperature within the realm of survivability. A tunnel extends back from the main room, and by the length of it it probably reaches into the cliffs themselves. It’s from there that a voice echoes back to them. Ezra’s, thankfully. “I’m hungry!” he hollers, sounding all the bit like a petulant child whining at bedtime.

Satisfied that there is no hidden ambush within the fire lit room, Th’ero steps in first, carefully side stepping around the debris strewn across the floor. He gestures then for Dtirae to step inside, motioning for her to close the door and then speaking so low it’s just above a whisper. “Seems they thoroughly tore the place apart.” The Weyrleader remarks, head tilted down as he scans the room, even the bits of furniture used to fuel the current fire. That only draws his frown down deeper and as if right on cue, Ezra’s voice echoes to them from the tunnel. Side glancing back to Dtirae, Th’ero subtly shakes his head. No way he’s having either of them venture down an unfamiliar cothold’s dark tunnels. Not yet, anyways. “I know you are, Ezra. Why don’t you come out here, by the fire? We’ll get you some food.” He tries to bribe the young boy again and then dips his head to the side to add in a low, almost growled whisper to Dtirae, provided the goldrider hasn’t moved off to far to overhear. “Say something, anything, to convince him. I don’t wish for us to have to go into the tunnels. It is too easy for a trap. I’ve had Velokraeth bespeak someone we can trust. I plan to have her bring food. But we have to gain his trust.” And buy time, it seems.

Dtirae steps in after Th’ero gestures for her to follow and frowns at the sight of the place. Her head shakes, disgusted at the sight of it all. “Don’t know why they did that other stuff.” The other stuff being killing the people. She doesn’t say anymore than that, never sheathing her knife at all, even if there looks to be without ambush. Lips press into a thin line as she notices the shake of the Weyrleader’s head. She doesn’t seem eager to leave his side any time soon, so she remains as close as she can. When the whispering is directed towards her, she gives him a look, frowning visibly. “I ain’t good with kids.” Lips press together again and she lets out a soft snort. “Look, Ezra, we’ve got a lot of food that you can eat if you come out towards the fire, where it’s warm. And, you can meet my dragon, she says she’d love ta talk ta ya.”

There’s quiet from the tunnels for a moment, before Ezra’s voice echoes out again. “What’cha g-g-got?” the boy stammers, teeth chattering a bit as he’s strayed too far from the fire. “W-what food?” There’s another long pause. “S-she a g-g-gold?” the boy calls quietly. “She n-n-nice? She w-won’t h-h-hurt…r-right? M-mom s-said dragon’s d-d-don’t h-hurt p-p-people. Less they’re b-b-b-bad. I w-was b-b-bad.”

Varmiroth senses that Velokraeth presence is weak and strained, starting as only a flicker of gold as the bronze struggles to focus enough to link across distance. When he finally does strengthen the bond, his mind is awash in a bitter and harsh, deep red like a strong red wine left too long to time. Snow and cold, darkness and stone. The eerie feeling of something wrong. Things in the snow and grim stains. Worry, anxiousness, anger, the emotions back up the images and thoughts. Th’ero with his dagger, creeping along the edge of a bloodstained courtyard. Dtirae as well. A hazy image of a hungry, dirty and fearful child. Fear, ah yes, fear is there too, though the bronze is careful to keep it a subtle undercurrent. For a moment, the connection strains, threatening to collapse before with sudden clarity, his voice finally reaches through. <> he starts, strain apparent even in his mental tone. <> How deliciously cryptic. Velokraeth supplies nothing more and perhaps purposely in hopes of goading the blue and his rider to action. And all this hadn’t, after a lull of silence the connection suddenly flares again, though rapidly weakens. <> Then he’s gone.

“Sadly we’re unlikely to find an answer to that for some time. But I do not like the idea that we could have a band of very dangerous renegades in our region.” Th’ero remarks darkly, scowling at the discarded debris as if a clue would just manifest itself. Shaken from his thoughts by Dtirae’s words, the Weyrleader only grimaces. “Don’t have to treat him like a child. Just /talk/ to him – he needs to trust you as much as I.” he tells the young goldrider then, though he gives a slight nod when she speaks up to Ezra. Then it’s quiet, save for the crackling of the fire and the wind outside, Th’ero standing perfectly still and head cocked slightly to the side. When Ezra’s voice echoes out again, some of the tension leaves but it’s subtle. “More then just salted fish.” The Weyrleader explains. “I’ve had a… friend of mine bring you some good food. Much better then just salted fish.” He takes a risk, going for the truth rather then lying. “She’ll be here soon, but you need to come out where it’s warm and light. You sound cold.” As another pause settles in, so does concern and he turns to face Dtirae again. Relief crosses his features, but it dies soon enough at Ezra’s words. The word “bad” is mouthed to the young goldrider, the Weyrleader obviously puzzled but he gestures for her to respond.

Velokraeth senses that Varmiroth reaches for that thread, trying to hold on to it with his tenuous grasp of telepathy across great distances. The night skies of his mind settle with clouds as he listens, focused on the bronze’s request. Then his reply comes, low and simple. « We come. » Was there any doubt?

Dtirae winces at the sound of the boy’s reply and the sound of the chattering teeth. “Yeah, she’s gold.” The goldrider responds, “she’s very nice. And she loves to talk with people.” She promises. Slowly, the woman begins to let down her guard and the knife slowly goes back into its sheath. Her hands then tuck into her pockets, shoulders shrugging upwards to provide a little more heat. “His friend is a dragonrider, too.” Dtirae elaborates, so not to leave the boy in the dark and frightful of what kind of friend would be coming. “We can wait by the fire for her before we go to meet my dragon.” Her gaze drifts over towards the Weyrleader and she nods once, saying nothing on her theories for the time being.

Varmiroth emerges in the wind and the darkness, angling down for a sharp landing away from the other dragons, landing heavily in the snow with a low rumble. « We are here, » the blue sends to the bronze, perhaps unnecessarily. « What does yours wish mine to do? We have bread and cheese, some sweets, a sandwich and redfruit juice. » Seems the best Kimmila could do on such short notice. The woman is bundled up in her heaviest riding gear, bow strapped to Varmiroth’s straps with a quiver of arrows. She also wears all four of her blades, but those are beneath her heavy jacket until she knows more about the situation. She doesn’t dismount, waiting for further orders from the Weyrleader, even though he’s not her Weyrleader.

Ezra’s voice hesitates, and then comes forth again, this time a little closer. “A f-friend? W-who?” he stammers, and the frown is audible. “I d-don’t want any m-more p-people!” His voice rises, a note of panic overtaking his tone. “N-no m-more!”

Velokraeth is at the farthest edge of the clearing and Zuvaleyuth is likely nearby as well. When Varmiroth joins them, the pale bronze rumbles deep in his throat, posture still tensed and eyes whirling with yellow and reds as his oversized head turns towards the blue. The bronze speaks in a rich tone, though sarcasm laces it, as well as strained. It’s clearly broadcast for both blue and gold and no doubt Th’ero is aware of it to a degree. Th’ero has likely broken several protocols and rules, major and minor already. Having called Kimmila above a Fortian rider and his own staff will no doubt be questioned later. Back inside the looted room within the cothold, Th’ero shows no signs of those concerns and hasn’t moved an inch from where he’s settled, save for the movement of his head from the dark, foreboding tunnel to Dtirae. The Weyrleader gives a subtle look of approval to the goldrider’s reply. Then his focus turns back to where Ezra remains stubbornly hidden. As panic settles into the young boy, Th’ero’s expression turns grim and he has to exhale heavily before speaking up. “There will be no more then us three, Ezra. I promise. I’m sorry if her coming upset you. But someone had to come to deliver your food.” He pauses then, to let that sink in. “We both trust her. She rides blue.” Again, he drifts to silence, letting it stretch for a few moments before letting his gaze meet Dtirae’s, as his next words are for her as much as Ezra. “She’s coming now. She has bread and cheese. Even sweets.” Pause and Th’ero signs with his hands to the goldrider to stand by the door and for reasons he’s hoping are obvious. “You have to come out though, Ezra. Please?” And for the first time the entire exchange, the Weyrleader’s tone drops to something that could be considered gentle.

Zuvaleyuth does not greet Varmiroth as he arrives, the gold clearly on edge and watching the cothold, slowly inching forward and closer. Her tail twitches now and again, watching and waiting should Dtirae call for her. Though no call comes, so the gold simply waits. As Ezra hesitates, Dtirae tenses just a fraction, looking as if she is debating on morning or not. She, however, hesitates long enough for Th’ero to make a decision for her and she moves quietly towards the door as he signs for her to. “Please, Ezra?” She chimes in as well, hoping to coax the boy from the dark.

Kimmila dismounts slowly, gathering the supplies in a bag. Leaving her bow and quiver, she pats Varmiroth on the shoulder before lumbering through the drifts towards the courtyard. The blue is a bit taken aback by the sarcasm in Velokraeth’s tone, his reply soft. « We came as quickly as we could… » Then he settles down, tail twitching with uneasiness. Kimmila steps through the gate and looks around the courtyard, her eyes widening and then narrowing, expression settling into disbelief and a cold, simmering fury. The bluerider pushes open the door slowly, stepping quietly inside and holding up the bag. “I have food,” she says, her eyes sweeping the area to take in the scene. To Th’ero first, and then Dtirae, and then around to see where this boy might be hiding.

Ezra’s steps echo as the boy approaches, firelight glinting off a blade that he holds in his hand. Polished pale steel with a polished wooden handle, it should look very familiar to both Th’ero and Kimmila. Very, very familiar. “B-blue?” the boy stammers as he steps into the edge of the light, visible once more. “Sweets?” he asks then, perking up a little bit. “S-show m-me. I d-d-don’t want t-to be t-tricked a-again.”

Velokraeth will apologize later perhaps for his sharpness with the blue, if the bronze remembers. But for now, like Zuvaleyuth, his attention is drawn back and focused on the cold and dark cothold. As Dtirae takes her position, Th’ero nods his head, only to turn it again when Kimmila steps quietly inside. Eyes dart to the bag and the Weyrleader gives another nod, his only hint of his thanks for the bluerider’s help and swiftness in arriving. He would have filled her in, quickly, but then the sound of echoing footsteps have him stopping just as he opens his mouth to speak. Th’ero had begun to drop into a more relax stance, perhaps to ease the child’s worries that they meant no harm. But when the firelight glints off of the blade that he holds, the Weyrleader visibly tenses again, almost bristling. He has to fight to control to keep his expression reasonably neutral, though his reaction could be chalked up to surprise and nothing more. “Ezra,” he begins, in a tone that is too level and too gentle not to be faked, “You can put the blade down.” And it seems he can’t take his eyes off that blade, not even to signal Dtirae or give her a subtle command. The goldrider is on her own. “No tricks. Just set it down and we’ll give you the sweets.”

Dtirae briefly looks at Kimmila as she arrives, her gaze only there for a brief moment before Ezra draws her attention. No surprise shows on her face as she notes the knife the boy handles, and she gives him more of a sympathetic look more than annoyed. “Hey.” She speaks softly, “Ezra, you don’t need the knife. I don’t want you to hurt yourself or to accidentally hurt anyone else. Can you put the knife down on the ground, please? Kimmila,” she gestures to the bluerider, “has the food, but, she won’t give it to you until you put the knife down.” She looks towards Kimmila, expectant that she’ll show the boy the food and such.

Kimmila takes the boy in at a glance, staring at him for a long moment. “Hello, Ezra,” she says, pulling the sweets from the bag and holding them on her palm, turning them towards the firelight so he can see them gleaming with their bright colors. Green eyes focus in on that blade and her expression flickers, her eyes darkening though she keeps the smile on her lips. The voice she uses is one she uses with Ziani, soft and soothing. More focused on her tone than her actual words, she nods. “Put the knife down, hon, and come have this food. I’ve got other things, too.”

Ezra stays where he is, the blade held awkwardly in his little fist. When he sees the sweets though, his tongue licks his lips and he’s putting the blade down on a broken table, swiftly running to Kimmila and snatching the sweets off her palm. He crams them into his mouth and grabs for the bag, pulling it open and rummaging around inside like a wild animal, looking for the rest of the food.

Kimmila stays stationary, her eyes lifting to look to Th’ero for his orders. Should she grab the kid?

Whatever spell the sight of that blade had cast on Th’ero breaks once Ezra sets it down on the table to dash for the sweets that Kimmila holds out for him. Moving quietly and swiftly, the Weyrleader does trick the boy, but only by disarming him completely by reclaiming the blade from the broken table. Carefully, he tucks it away into a thickly padded section of his riding belt. To Kimmila’s silent question, he shakes his head – no. But he does give a side-glance to Dtirae, motioning for the goldrider to move to some strategic part of the room. Th’ero’s aim is to not crowd Ezra, but to make his escape routes (the known ones, anyhow), not as easily accessible. The Weyrleader steps forwards and directly in the path that would lead back to the tunnels, leaving only the door outside and the space in between. “No tricks.” Th’ero assures the boy, brown eyes watching him with a sympathetic look now as well before his expression hardens again and drifts up to Kimmila and Dtirae both. Clearly, he wants to start questioning the boy again, but he hesitates, waiting on the reaction of both bluerider and goldrider. What now?

Dtirae watches the interaction as it happens as the boy puts the knife down and then goes after the sweets and begins to shove his mouth full of food. Dtirae doesn’t say a word, instead, she watches as the Weyrleader takes the blade from the table. Relaxation takes hold again and she slowly makes her way over to the spot in which she was gestured towards. She keeps herself away from the boy, however, letting him eat. While Th’ero looks for them for answers she merely shakes her head and gestures at the boy with his food, indicating they should wait.

Kimmila nods subtly to Th’ero and remains still as Ezra gobbles down some of the food, her eyes unfocusing slightly. Outside, Variroth stirs and projects to the others, « Mine thinks we should take him to the weyr. Perhaps to Wiyaneth's. He might know her and trust her. » There is another pause. « Mine does not think we should push the boy any more, now. We should get him somewhere else. Somewhere safe. Let him rest. Then ask. Nothing will change here. »

Nodding towards Dtirae as she shakes her head, Th’ero’s gaze then shifts to Kimmila, though it’s Varmiroth who shares the answers. Judging by the change in the Weyrleader’s expression, it’s obvious he’s considering it and then with a grim set to his mouth, gives a sharp nod. Agreed. Outside in the valley, Velokraeth finally relaxes, easing down to settle in the snow with a gruff snort and huff. Seems the bronze agrees too. Back in the cothold, Th’ero forces himself to relax enough to adopt a more approachable posture and expression as he takes a few slow steps towards the boy, who is seemingly still distracted by the food. “Ezra?” he asks in a warmer tone then any of his previous ones. “We should leave now. We’d like it if you could come with us. You can have more food or sweets. Whatever you like.” Seems the food bribe worked once; it can’t hurt to try again? Though that isn’t the only tactic Th’ero uses. “You can go with Dtirae here,” Glancing up as he says her name, he points to the goldrider, though Ezra should know to whom he speaks of. “Like she explained earlier, Zuvaleyuth is very nice and would really like to see you. We will all keep you safe. But it’s…” Dangerous here? Full of your dead kin? “…too cold here to stay.” It’s a lie, plain and simple, but Th’ero isn’t about to upset the boy any further. As it is, the Weyrleader seems to expect Ezra to resist. With a heavy exhale; Th’ero gives the room one last, dark look before shaking his head. “We should leave soon.” He murmurs, though this time it’s directed more to Kimmila and Dtirae.

Dtirae looks over towards Th’ero as the message is relayed from Zuvaleyuth, giving her own nod of agreement. She doesn’t move from her spot, continuing to block the potential escape should the boy try and take off, and she’s certainly ready to grab him if he comes in her direction, ready to take him out by force if they must. “Zuvaleyuth says she’d really like to meet you. She’s waiting just outside.” Dtirae promises, “she’s really big, you know? Just like the stories say. But, that just means she’s even nicer because she has a really big heart.” The urge to roll eyes is great, but the goldrider resists.

Kimmila holds open the bag to help the boy get more food, watching as he shoves the bread into his mouth and nearly chokes on it. “Small bites,” she murmurs out of habit. She glances up at Th’ero and her expression is mixed, and very hard to read. She returns his nod, “I think so too,” she murmurs. “Ezra? Do you know my mother, Elara? She’d love to see you.”

Ezra chews and swallows, the boy having the manners to blush a little bit beneath all that grime when he’s reminded to eat like a normal person. Still, he clutches that hunk of bread close, and then reaches out to take the whole bag from Kimmila, as if he’s afraid they’ll take it from him. His pale green eyes turn to look at Th’ero, with a frown. “L-leave?” he stammers softly, glancing at the riders, one after the other. “B-but what if m-mom c-comes back? H-how will s-s-she know where I-I’ve g-g-gone?” His head tilts up to peer at Kimmila. “E-Elara? H-her dragon’s w-wing’s b-broke.” It shows he knows who she is, at least, and he shifts his weight from foot to foot, indecisive but at least not flat out refusing to leave. There’s /food/ where they’re going. And he doesn’t really want to stay in this lonely, scary place. He turns to look at Dtirae, and then to the door. “T-they’re o-out there,” the boy stammers, whispering as fear rises in him once more. He leans against Kimmila, and the bluerider rests a light hand on his back, expression twisting to something between awkwardness, fury, and heartache.

While Kimmila watches over Ezra as the boy continous to ravenously feed himself, Th’ero gives Dtirae a long, questioning look. A really big heart? He quirks a brow up then for that statement, but he doesn’t verbally comment on it. Glancing back to Kimmila, his expressions are mixed as well, though he frowns when hers prove to be difficult to read. The Weyrleader is no doubt going to have his hands full and is already beginning to think of times to pull both bluerider and goldrider aside privately to talk. Pulled from his brooding by Ezra turning to glance up at him, Th’ero can’t help but give the boy a sympathetic and perhaps slightly sad look. “We can leave her a message. That way she knows where you are and that you are safe. She said riders would come and we did.” And they came too late; too late for all but one lone boy. “Yes, that would be Elara. And Wiyaneth.” Th’ero assures the young boy, though it seems he is being swayed and the Weyrleader need not be so concerned and Dtirae won’t have to drag him kicking and screaming from the cothol. When Ezra mentions “them” again, it suddenly dawns on Th’ero whom exactly the boy is implying. Having to close his eyes for a moment, a heavy frown settles on his brows as his features take on an almost pained look. “You’ll be with Dtirae though.” He tells him, eyes opening and focusing on the goldrider first, then to Ezra himself. “She’ll keep anything bad from you and Kimmila as well. I’ll be behind you and you’ll be safe.” Now he tries his best to smile, though it’s weak at best. “We will go straight to the valley, alright?”

Dtirae keeps her attention on Ezra, then making her way over to the boy. She offers her hand out and smiles, “I’ll keep them away, I promise. I’m a really good fighter.” Despite the the fact that Kimmila is already offering comfort, it is likely something in his expression that sparks the sudden understanding from the goldrider. She misses the long look from Th’ero, saying nothing more as she waits for the boy to either take her hand or decline the offer. Th’ero is already answering in leaving the note for the boy’s mother and she nods her agreement.

Kimmila stands there beside the boy, making no sudden movements. She treats him like she would treat a scared animal.

Ezra nods his head and talks around his food, words muffled for a moment until he swallows and starts again. “N-nail it to t-th-th door.” His pale green eyes turn to look at Dtirae, and with slow, hesitant steps he moves away from the bluerider and towards the gold. “O-okay,” he says quietly. “A-all m-my stuff’s g-g-gone or b-broked.” So he has nothing to pack. It seems he’s forgotten his knife for the moment, distracted by food. He looks at Dtirae’s hand, but doesn’t take it. Still, he’s standing close to her and looking up expectantly, clearly ready to go.

While Kimmila and Dtirae occupy themselves with keeping Ezra calm, Th’ero gives a brisk nod to the young boy’s request. Carefully, he begins to nudge aside some of the debris, finding some shred of paper and a small piece of charcoal to write with. A hasty message is scrawled, but he doesn’t show what, exactly he’s written. “That’s alright.” He says to Ezra, in regards to his belongings, Th’ero’s expression taking on a pitying look now. Setting the note aside, the Weyrleader is suddenly undoing the buckles to his riding jacket, or one layer at least. While he won’t be entirely protected from the cold, the bronzerider has some layers left. It will obviously be too big for the boy, but it will be warmer then what he wears now and that seems to be Th’ero’s concern. “Here, take this.” And slowly, he steps forwards to begin draping it over Ezra’s shoulders, though he leaves the boy to finish the rest. “It’s very cold outside, so we’ll have to move quickly. We will follow the tracks we made in back out.” He says in a firm tone, addressing not only Ezra but Kimmila and Dtirae as well. Lifting his gaze to the door, the Weyrleader takes a deep, steadying breath. “Let’s go. Dtirae and Kimmila, you both head out first with Ezra. I’ll be right behind you. But first, I’ll… post the note.” He did promise, after all. So the scrap of paper is collected, along with a makeshift nail, before giving a brisk nod with his head. He’s ready.

When Ezra steps away from Kimmila, she gives a small smile of reassurance but his words break that smile down into something a little smaller. She keeps a firm control of not letting a frown work into her brows. There’s a look towards Th’ero as he gives the boy his jacket, saying nothing in protest. When the coat is in place, she gives another look is given to the boy before she’s shrugging and bending down to lift the boy, whether or not that was what he was wanting or not. “It’ll be faster if I carry you.” She promises with a smile. There isn’t much hesitation when Th’ero gives the word to go, making her way out and following their path out. Zuvaleyuth isn’t so patient as to not start creeping forward a little more than she was, to make the travel distance much shorter.

Kimmila watches Th’ero move about, her eyes following his progress of finding the paper, to giving Ezra the jacket. She takes a few steps towards the door, following Dtirae out. Once, she looks back over her shoulder at Th’ero, brows furrowed, before she’s outside. And once outside, she’ll hang back just a bit, letting Dtirae and Ezra get out of the courtyard before she makes long strides towards that pile in the corner. Crouching down, she examines what the other riders have seen, confirming her suspicions before she steps through the courtyard gate, keeping Dtirae and Ezra in sight while she waits for Th’ero. From here, she’d be ready to spring to either’s aid, if it was needed.

Ezra watches Th’ero’s approach warily, shying back for a moment until the jacket is draped around him. The boy’s eyes widen slightly, and then he’s holding the bag in his teeth while his arms slip through the sleeves, far too big for his small frame. Still, he clutches that jacket close to him, letting the warmth seep into his cold bones. He doesn’t even try to buckle it. Pale green eyes watch the letter, but the boy doesn’t ask what’s been written. When he’s picked up though, the thin little boy starts to struggle without making a sound. His eyes shut tight, he wiggles and flails and tries to get free, all in an eerie silence. DO NOT WANT. Still, he’s weak and little, so despite his struggles Dtirae should have no trouble carting him off.

Th’ero looks a little surprised when Dtirae moves to pick Ezra up, but then nods his head in agreement. The snow is deep and it will likely save them some time. “It’s okay, Ezra. We’ll be able to move faster this way. Keep your eyes closed if you have to, but hold still.” It’s an attempt to reassure the boy and help the goldrider, though he makes no move towards either of them. He keeps his eagerness to leave the cothold behind well hidden as well, even as the door is opened and he follows everyone out. True to his word, the note is pinned to the door. And it is no notice for a missing mother, but a warning. Grimacing bitterly as the cold bites through his clothing, the Weyrleader turns then to follow Dtirae, though he turns his head as Kimmila moves off. Once he realizes where she’s going, he leaves her be though he slows his movements until the bluerider rejoins them. He’ll follow behind the goldrider as they weave their way back down to the valley were their dragons wait. Velokraeth has crept closer as well, just as Zuvaleyuth had, though the pale bronze hangs back to leave the gold plenty of room to move. “Dtirae,” Th’ero suddenly calls out over the wind, “Head back to Fort, but to Wiyaneth’s ledge. Take Ezra straight to Elara, report to her and then come to the council chambers. Understood?” The Weyrleader lingers only to either elaborate or for her confirmation before glancing back over his shoulder to Kimmila. “I need you to come with me.” Obviously. Nothing more is said, either because he has nothing more to say or because the cold is really getting to him. Th’ero gives the signal to mount up then before trudging through the snow towards his waiting bronze.

Dtirae doesn’t notice that Kimmila breaks away from following her, or, if she does she makes no indication of it. Even with Ezra’s struggles, she’s none too eager to look back or stop she just keeps moving until Zuvaleyuth is in view. Her heart lifts, and her pace picks up just a bit but certainly not enough to cause her to slip or trip. The sound of her name, however, is the only thing that gives her pause. She briefly looks over her shoulder, listening to the command and giving a single nod. Then, it’s all smiles again. “Zuvaleyuth! This is the boy I told you about. You can talk with him after we get to Fort, though.” The gold chuffs softly, then lowers herself to allow Dtirae, while holding the boy, to mount easier. Quiet instructions are given as she settles the boy in the straps in front of her, making sure to keep her arms around him to offer comfort and closeness. An explanation of between comes as well before they’re taking off into the air. Because of the winds, however, they aren’t too far off the ground before they blink between. Risky, but, necessary, and considering the contents of the cothold: a desperate attempt to get far, far away.

Kimmila’s expression is set and grim as she watches Th’ero and hears his orders, both to Dtirae and to herself. She just nods in reply before reaching out to place a brief hand on his arm. Then she’s turning to her waiting dragon and mounting up, Varmiroth kicking into the air and vanishing between, heading for Velokraeth’s ledge.

Ezra is quiet, shock having settled into the boy’s mind as he’s utterly overwhelmed by the events of the last few days. Numb inside and out, all he can do is sit there and let Dtirae do with him what she will. He’s past caring at this point, pale green eyes vacant and distant.

Th’ero pauses when Kimmila rests her hand on his arm and his expression drops just enough that he can give the bluerider a reassuring look. But the events of the night surge back to the forefront of his thoughts and his features settle into a dark scowl. It takes the Weyrleader sometime to mount up, cold already working through his clothes and making his movements awkward. Velokraeth launches into the air the moment Th’ero is secure and once clear, vanishes between as well. Zuvaleyuth seems not to be the only one taking risks, though the Weyrleader is probably less then pleased on that factor. But it’s the least of his concerns at this point. The moment they appear from Between, back at Fort, the pale bronze angles down towards his ledge and Th’ero dismounts. Velokraeth then wings down to the bowls below, where others will free him of the crates still secured to his straps. That will no doubt stir up some questions, but it will be a long time before any details may spread, if at all. Taking the stairs down to the council chambers, the Weyrleader lingers only long enough in the cold for Kimmila to find him and join him by his side. With a grim look to his features, he gestures for the bluerider and then slips inside as well and to what proves to be one long, exhausting night as the Weyr is informed and an emergency meeting called that ends just before dawn.

'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.