Stonehaven Cothold — Far North of Fort Weyr's Boundaries

Two days after the discovery at Stonehaven, things appear much the same as they were when the cothold was last seen. Fresh snow blankets the ground, covering all previous tracks of riders and dragons alike. In this early morning the sun's light lends a golden glow across this small valley and against the tall cliffs which give Stonehaven its name. The nearby box canyon is still cloaked in shadow, but the high stone walls around the single stone building of the hold itself shimmers as the sunlight strikes the cold stones and the topping of ice and snow. Shifting in a gentle dawn breeze, the evergreen trees against the walls move, occasionally sending down fine showers of snow from the night's snowfall. The iron gate stands open where it was left, and hammered to the door flutters Th'ero's note, the loudest sound in this still, quiet place.

High above in the early morning sky the first small group of dragons appear from between, arranged in formation and lead by Velokraeth. Seconds later, another group appears to their side and then another, each a bit below the first. All dragons are laden with supplies and passengers and with a rumble; the pale bronze leads them all down towards the valley that he and Zuvaleyuth had landed in before day's prior. The unsettling stillness of the cothold is disturbed as the wind from many wings kick up the snow and the rumblings of many dragons mix in with the various commands being tosses about. Th'ero is one of the first to dismount, dressed in a borrowed flight jacket that has seen better days. The Weyrleader pauses for a moment, breath streaming in the cold air as he focuses on the open iron gate with a grim look. Straightening his shoulders, he turns then to begin organizing the group as riders and passengers alike begin to dismount. Among them are Nishka and L'da, Wingleader and Wingsecond of Thunderbird, along with a score of their wingriders. Various guards, including the Captain himself and his Lieutenants are noted and two Harpers, two Healers, senior journeymen all. And to finish the group is a score of mixed holders and weyrfolk alike. It's likely the first life Stonehaven has seen in the last few days and for a moment the valley is transformed into organized chaos.

Varmiroth appears in the first group, flying to Velokraeth's left and slightly behind the much larger bronze. Soaring down to backwing to a light landing, he crouches to let Kimmila dismount. The bluerider tugs off her helmet and attaches it to her dragon's straps before she strides over towards Th'ero, stepping up beside him and looking around at the organized chaos with a small, thoughtful frown. Green eyes flick to a certain corner of the courtyard, and then down to the lower valley where the forest begins and hides the iced-over river. "Did we bring firewood?"

Jaye is one of those Thunderbird riders who got volunteered, or asked, to join the fray. Her shadowbeast of a brown following his fellow wingmembers as the great winged beasts land. Once Maehwazeyeth has settled, he lowers to let his rider slip to the ground, landing with a soft sound of boots on snow. The young rider's helmet is slipped from her head, and attached to straps as her great masked vigilante takes in the hold with a low rumble. Jaye waits for her orders from her wingleader, taking in the scene as abandoned hold becomes bustling hub of activity.

Leaving the Guards to organize their own and the weyrfolk and holders, Th'ero turns his attention to Kimmila as she strides up to his side. "Some. But not enough I fear. We may have to cut down some of the smaller trees. Not here in the valley though." He's got a promise to keep, after all. Nishka and L'da stand to the side of the main group and the Wingleader signals for her riders to approach for one last debriefing before ordering them to start unpacking their dragons and organizing the materials. Various tools and supplies have been brought in of all sorts, all aspects covered as a makeshift "camp" begins to take root. Th'ero oversees it all with a silent and dark looking mood, his posture tense and stressed though to most he appears calm. Freed of their burdens, most of the dragons move off, Velokraeth included, getting out of the way.

It all takes a few minutes for chaos to settle into something a little more organized and it's then that the Weyrleader signals and calls for the investigation team to gather. Nishka is the first to move, though the Wingleader pauses and then motions for Jaye to follow her. L'da remains behind with the Lieutentants, as Captain Breshir joins Th'ero and the rest. Tagging behind and eventually joining are journeymen Harper Rhideva and journeymen Healer Evattan. Introductions having been done prior at the Weyr, Th'ero simply cuts straight to business, once everyone is within earshot. "We're to investigate the courtyard first. The dead are in the far corner. Evattan, you may want to lead your partner there first. There is blood under the snow. Do your best to avoid it, if you can. We are to look for clues, /anything/ that could tell us what happened. Start outside first and then we'll move on to the bodies." As he speaks, he meets everyone's gaze in turn, his tone serious and grave. He'll wait until everyone gives the affirmative before signaling for them to move on as he turns and leads the way through the snow.

Kimmila nods to Th'ero and glances around once more, perhaps searching for other trees that could be felled for the grim task ahead. Her hands tucked into her pockets, the bluerider surveys the scene along with Th'ero, though she steps a bit away from his side when he addresses everyone, to position herself as 'audience' rather than 'speaker'. She nods slowly, eyes darting to that corner once more, nothing visible on this side of the wall that would indicate the pile of death just on the other side. When he moves off she falls into line slightly behind him, hands still shoved deep into her pockets and expression grim. Glancing around she spots Jaye, and gives the Thunderbird rider a small nod.

Jaye gives Maehwa a pat before sending him off with the rest of the dragons, though she's sure he will be keeping a close watch on the goings on. As she's motioned forward, she strides slowly, purposefully towards the group of organizers, listening to the instructions and nodding when appropriate. Kimmila's nod is returned, and she casts deep klah hued eyes over the courtyard, noting the peacefulness of the fresh fallen snow that hides the dirty little secrets beneath it. She's not a talkative one, Jaye, and so she moves silently towards her goal, to assist as best she can with this investigation.

As he strides through the deep snow up to the hold courtyard, Th'ero turns his head a little to glance at Kimmila, as if for reassurance. But his mind is set on the tasks ahead as well and when questions drift up his way, the Weyrleader answers them briskly. The closer they get, the more silent and curt he becomes in his responses. L'da, along with the rest of the Lieutenants and guards, wingriders and assorted folk move on to organizing the task of preparing the pyres and setting up the camp, leaving them alone to the task of investigating. When they reach the iron gate, Th'ero pauses there, brown eyes darting towards the dreaded corner and then gives a quick glance of the surroundings before motioning for the rest of the group to move in. "Let's begin. The sooner we can get this over with, the better. Not how I wanted to spend our Turnover and I'm sure we have many here who'd rather be elsewhere." The Weyrleader murmurs grimly. Nishka gives him a long, lingering look before pursing her lips and squaring her shoulders and passing the gate. She pointedly ignores the corner for now, instead focusing her attentions downwards to the ground. The Harper and Healer however, only nod as they pass and head straight for the back, though they are cautious as to where they step. Th'ero lingers by the gate, his head turned to glance back to the valley for a moment.

The courtyard has been covered with a fresh layer of snow, effectively erasing any of the tracks and drag marks that they witnessed two days ago. There is little to be seen until people move closer, investigating specific parts of the courtyard. A blood splatter is sprayed against one of the walls on the inside of the courtyard, suggestion a wound taken in the flurry of a full-on battle. Another is against the wall of the cothold itself, frozen and congealed in chunks that froze half way dripping to the ground. Other signs are there too, in the unevenness of the ground despite the snow cover, suggesting overturned stones and earth - more signs of a battle.

In the back corner, unearthing begins of the mound of bodies. As the Harper and Healer work grimly, they uncover first the body that Dtirae found, with his battle wounds and his throat slashed. Beneath him are others, and the two work to untangle limbs and remove them, though the bodies stay in the positions they settled into when they were dumped unceremoniously on the pile. Eight in all. Seven men and a teen girl. Some killed by a blade, others look as if their bodies were smashed with a blunt object. All wear Stonehaven's badge on their clothes.

Kimmila stays by Th'ero's side, also avoiding the back corner and its gruesome details. She too glances towards the valley, and then back to the Weyrleader. "I'd like to help carry the ashes," she says quietly. "I knew these people. It's the…least I can do." She grimaces, never having liked that turn of phrase.

Jaye takes her first step into the courtyard, dark klah eyes taking in the sights, the evidence of battle, the dead bodies in the corner. A shiver travels through her body and she scratches at that branded wrist nervously a moment. But since she can't really help with the bodies, she'll settle for trying to find evidence of any more battlegrounds, the spatter against the wall, the frozen globules of coagulated blood. The scarred brownrider is no stranger to such violence, some of the other may get that pale woozy look to them, but the pregnant brownrider, she just looks sad. Wandering carefully among the snow covered damage, coming to a stop nearby the uneven ground, where a gloved hand gently tries to brush away some of the snow from the uneven parts of the ground there. She's meticulously careful, though, not really sure what she's supposed to be looking for but looking nonetheless.

Turning away from the work down below in the valley, Th'ero faces Kimmila now and her request is met with a nod. "Of course. If you wish, you can lead them. Seems only fitting." Not to mention dropping quite the burden on the poor bluerider. He doesn't move from the iron gate, though he steps a little inside now. The Weyrleader has already seen much of the details, so he remains on guard by the entrance for now. Nishka is the first to return to him, the Wingleader looking pale and a little sick, though she does her best to hold her composure. "I'll tell you this… this isn't the signs of reengages. Too messy and crudely done… too," And when she begins to falter, Th'ero adds in, "Brutal?" Nishka only nods then, shaking her head as she turns to resume her search, though she stays clear of the bodies. The other wingriders move in to help either with the bodies as the Harper takes notes and the Healer mutters his findings. The Guard Captain, Breshir, is the next to approach Th'ero and the two exchange some low words with each other. Seems that the Captain and Wingleader Nishka are of like opinions and frustration flickers across Th'ero's features. No clues and no leads yet. When his gaze catches Jaye crouching down to investigate a part of the ground, he calls to the brownrider. "Anything of interest?"

Kimmila nods her head to Th'ero and turns to look down towards the trees by the river. The bluerider sighs softly, shifting her hands in her pockets before she stills. Frowning a bit at Nishka's words, Kimm says nothing, but glances around the courtyard while the Weyrleader and the Captain confer.

Jaye shakes her head, "S'not ren'gades, they'd not leave s'much ev'dence." And she seems sure about that fact for someone who has so little experience with search and rescue. "An' nothin' seems missin?" She isn't sure about that but she thought she had heard some of the other investigators mention something like that, though she could be wrong. "E'en ren'gades wouldna've jus' 'ttacked to 'ttack without some reason." She's standing, now, with her brow furrowed as she takes in the relative positions of the blood stains and the bodies and the general violence that seemed to have ensued. "I'd've hated t'be 'ere when it happened." Another shiver travels through the brownrider's body.

"Everything is missing," Th'ero corrects Jaye gently. "We haven't gone inside the actual hold itself. It's a mess in there too. Everything is gone, but even so… it doesn't quite add up." Considering Stonehaven was hardly a rich hold. Not exactly prime target on any renegades list. To the rest of the brownriders observations, the Weyrleader only nods, turning then to Kimmila and reaching out to lightly touch her arm, though it's brief. "And what do you think?" he asks her, left to hear her response before the Harper is lifting a hand up to catch his attention. Sighing a little, he signals for Breshir to follow him and the two begin to approach the bodies, which are now being pulled apart and set side to side for easier observation. Th'ero can't help but grimace at the sight and some of the wingriders are having the same struggles.
Kimmila shakes her head, declining to answer Th'ero at the moment. When he approaches the bodies is the only time Kimmila holds back, suddenly turning to go help build the funeral pyre that's going up a few lengths from the walls of the cothold. Helping to stack the wood, they make it large enough to hold all eight of the victims.

Jaye had heard wrong, then, oops? That's what she gets for listening to a poor rider that doesn't seem to be able to think for the greenness in her face. The misleading rider gets a look from Jaye, make er look like a fool will ya? Hrmph. Still, Jaye sticks with her word that it doesn't look like renegade activity, which is actually a relief for the young woman. A sigh at the grimacing of the wingriders and the weyrleader, should she be grimacing too? But she isn't, she's carefully reserved, some of the rumours about her being an unemotional person perhaps finding their start in the way she conducts herself on work manners. She'll approach the pile, then, slowly as she isn't exactly sure she was invited to do so. She peers at those bodies being untangled and just studies each one with those dark brown eyes.

Jaye is welcomed to approach it seems, as no one stops her. And as much as it pains and disturbs the Weyrleader, he makes himself look at the bodies now that they've been separated. His gaze lingers longest on the teen and for a moment his skin pales before he gives himself a shake. It helps too that at this point, Rhideva steps forwards and shows the notes she's recorded so far. A few low words are shared between Harper and Weyrleader, before she turns away. "I've seen all I need to see." She murmurs in a low voice that cracks, forcing her to clear her throat before she leaves, head shaking in sadness. The Healer, Evattan, has also finished his observations and his report is just as dark. Turning to murmur his leave to all, it falls to the wingriders now to prepare the bodies to be carries to the pyres below. Nishka motions for Jaye then, the Wingleader now standing by the gates. "Wingrider Jaye? If you'll be so kind to inform them down by the pyre that we're ready." She asks, fixing the brownrider with a level look. Th'ero glances up and over their way, barely masking the sigh that escapes his lips. "Seems like we'll find nothing more here. Might as well take care and honor the dead." He murmurs and Breshir nods his head in agreement. "We can take care of that, sir, if you wish to return to camp." The Guard Captain offers and the Weyrleader nods his head in thanks. "Notify me immediately if anything is found. No matter how small." With a salute, the two part ways and Th'ero slowly makes his way back to the valley, head down and a somber and thoughtful look etched onto his features.

The bodies are carried down to the pyre and laid gently across the wood. Stepping clear, Kimmila is the one to take the torch and light the pyre, walking slowly around it and letting the flames kiss the dry wood and kindling, raising the fire that will burn the bodies in the Stonehaven tradition. Once the pyre is lit, Kimmila removes from her pocket a small wooden badge painted in Stonehaven's colors, which she tosses into the fire before she steps back, heat adding redness to her cheeks and making her eyes glisten. It's the smoke, promise. As the murdered burn, Kimmila stands stock still, hands clasped behind her back and watching.

Jaye does as requested by her wingleader, though the scarred brownrider doesn't offer to help carry the bodies, not that she'd be alowed to anyway with that softly rounded stomach of her already showing her forming baby bump. The woman remains by the pyre, though, head bowed in respect as the bodies are burned, ashes to ashes, dust to dust?

Th'ero stops by the makeshift camp to spread word that the pyres are prepared and the dead are being brought down. Many of the holders working at the site murmur their thanks and hurry off. The Weyrleader then makes his way towards the pyre and takes his place along side Nishka and Breshir, Jaye and the other wingriders. His gaze follows Kimmila as the bluerider begins the process, composed the entire time though his expression remains grim and sad as they stand aside and away from the worst of the smoke. As the fire takes hold, Th'ero's head drops as he pays his respects in silence, hands clasped behind his back. Silence overtakes the area, save for the wind and the trees. Then, suddenly one voice lifts, draconic in nature. It's Velokraeth, the pale bronze settling back on his haunches, wings spread as he raises his voice in a keen usually reserved for the death of their own, though the notes are modified, somewhat subdued but the message, and respect for the life so needlessly lost, is there.

Kimmila glances over at Th'ero when he approaches, nodding her head slightly. Velokraeth's keening has the bluerider startling slightly, but then she smiles faintly as Varmiroth picks up the sound, keeping his wings tucked close as he extends his neck to add his higher notes to the bronze's. Kimmila's hand rubs against her eyes (smoke - totally the smoke) and things remain that way until the fire burns down and there is nothing left but ashes. Kimmila then steps forward and scoops up a handful in her gloved hands, making sure she didn't get any burning embers in her grasp. "Now we walk down to the trees to scatter the ashes," she says, her voice starting soft but then rising until everyone can hear her. "And with every step we will think about them and remember." Then she turns to do just that, leading the way down to the river to gently let the ashes she holds land in the snow beneath one of the larger trees, the dark ashes marring the white, virgin snow.

Jaye is silent through the full burning, Maehwazeyeth adding his own haunted keen to those of the other dragons, her lifemate's add to the keening hits her ears and she nods, she was afraid maybe he wouldn't react with the others. As Kimmila speaks, Jaye listens, nodding as the group is informed what is to happen next. The scarred brownrider will comply, quietly respectful, as is called for in this sad situation. One hand does run over her stomach briefly, the only movement from the young rider other than feet shifting as she walks.

Th'ero looks a little startled as well, having not expected that and it's mirrored in the rest of the riders assembled as well as their respective lifemates add their voices in. As he turns to approach the pyre, he pauses long enough to rest a hand gently to Jaye's shoulder in a reassuring gesture as he passes the brownrider before moving on. Nishka comes to her side then, L'da on the other and her wingriders behind her. The Weyrleader will scoop up some of the ashes as well, though the rest seem to fall to the Hapers, Healers and the holders as well, with Fort's guards taking up the rest. They all follow Kimmila's lead, some murmuring their own words but all have thoughtful and respectful looks as silence follows the somber line down to the river and the trees. When all the ashes have been spread, the silence stretches on and Th'ero remains calm and collected, though those who know him well enough know the Weyrleader is likely in turmoil of emotions. Like Jaye, he's just very, very good at masking it all. "And it is done." Th'ero murmurs, now by Kimmila's side as he turns to face the assembled group. "Thank you, all of you, for helping bring peace and respect to those who died so needlessly. Our task is done here for now. Holders and weyrfolk, you're to return to your assigned riders, save for a few of you who will remain here at the camp, along with the guards to be posted." He pauses then, before continuing. "We may be finished here with Stonehaven, but Fort Weyr will not rest until those responsible are held accountable." It's a heavy promise, for certain, but Th'ero seems to stand firmly behind it. The Weyrleader then signals for them to disperse.

'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.