Fort's Forests — Fort Weyr - Shady Glade
Covered by a canopy of interlaced branches, this secluded spot in the forest is shadowy and cool. Patches of sky show intermittently through the greenery above, creating dapples of diffused light that dance on the carpet of dry needles and leaves below. A scattering of tiny wildflowers adds a touch of bright color here and there.

The skies over the Fort region have remained cloudy since the morning hours, though now seem to be dispersing, with some lingering off to the horizon and promising a storm for the later hours. What sunlight does peak through brings meager warmth, the air still cold when the wind picks up as winter continues to hold on despite the oncoming of spring. Snow still covers most of the land and the forests are no exception, though in the areas where the sunlight easy breeches the canopy, the snow and ice has melted away, leaving only the denser and darker parts of the forest still buried. It's over most of this forest caught midway between winter and spring that Velokraeth soars, gliding almost effortlessly on some thermal as he sweeps by. The Weyrleader has chosen the mid-afternoon as his choice to do his share of the patrols, after a brisk and short meeting with Nishka to see which area hasn't already been cleared by Thunderbird wingriders. Having been woken up from what was supposed to be a peaceful night by a panicked P'on, Th'ero has been in a mood since. So it's no wonder he's turned to duties that offer him some form of escape and it's no surprise either whom he asked to join him by his side. Veering suddenly to the left, Velokraeth begins to drift downwards to land in a spacious raised clearing that edge on a denser part of the forest, too clustered and dark to properly inspect from above.

Varmiroth soars easily alongside the bronze, catching his own thermals or gliding on the wake left behind by the much larger dragon. Quiet and serious, Kimmila leans this way and that off her lifemate's neck to gaze down into the familiar forest. Adjusting his wings and tilting slightly, Varmiroth takes a slow approach after Velokraeth, backing off to give the bronze more than enough time to land before the blue makes his own approach.

Velokraeth comes to land across from the edge leading to the darker and denser forests, his oversized head turning and tilting and if the pale bronze almost seems to curl his lips back a little in disgust. Snorting his displeasure, his eyes whirl with hints of yellow and red as Th'ero unbuckles himself from the straps and pauses to pull his flight helmet and goggles from his head and store them away before dismounting. The Weyrleader his dressed in his usual winter riding jacket and gear, knot and all included. Also buckled to his side is his dagger. With one hand coming to rest on its hilt and the other to his lifemate's side, he turns his head up to take note of Varmiroth's position before focusing on his bronze. Something must pass between the two, for with one last sharp snort, Velokraeth is settling down, stunted forelimbs coming to cross in front of him and his eyes whirling at a much more calmer hue of pure blue.

Varmiroth lands neatly and rumbles quietly, crouching to let Kimmila dismount. She, too, stashes her helmet and goggles, and checks the dagger at her waist. "What's wrong?" she asks, glancing from the bronzerider to his dragon, and then back. Varmiroth settles, the usually spacey blue more focused as he peers into the shadows. Kimmila unfastens her bow and slings it across her back with her quiver, secured so it wouldn't be a hinderance during a hike or a close-quarters fight.

Velokraeth rumbles lowly to the blue by way of greeting and then falls silent as he observes their surroundings, hardly moving save for the occasional shift of his head or the twitch of his tail. Th'ero gives the pale bronze one last lingering look and then moves off, striding over to where Kimmila has dismounted. Again, his hand seems to linger by his side, touching the dagger but also reaching for more and most likely doing it only because he's missing his more familiar weapon of old - his sword. The Weyrleader felt no need to completely arm himself, but at least he's not entirely without protection. "The land here seems to drift downhill, most likely into a ravine of sorts. Can't see from above since the trees here are too dense and tall. Figured we'd look in on foot." Th'ero begins to explain, glancing first to Kimmila and then letting his gaze move off to the forest, his mouth drawing down as he frowns heavily in thought. "Velokraeth objected, claiming if we found trouble, neither he or Varmiroth would be able to reach us. So I compromised. We'll go in, but the first sign of something wrong, we back off and call for back up." Even as he says it, it's obvious it's not his choice of plans but if it keeps the bronze from hindering them, Th'ero will submit. Scanning the area briefly, he then turns his gaze back to Kimmila and for a moment he smiles vaguely. "Ready?"

Kimmila's green eyes scan the area, frowning slightly. "I think I remember this area," she admits. "Though it's been turns and turns since I was last here. It looks a lot more grown. I *think* there was a forest fire here some…thirty turns ago. So it's all new to me, with this growth." She smiles at the bronze and nods, "We will," she promises, as her hand rests on her knife hilt anyway. Varmiroth snorts softly, and Kimmila grins at him before she looks back to Th'ero. There is caution in her expression, but also the subtle excitement of a hike - and possibly a hunt. Exploring has always been a passion of hers. "Ready."

"Really?" Th'ero asks and sounding genuinely intrigued by the information Kimmila shares, tucking that away in case they do find evidence suggesting that this indeed the same area that the bluerider knows. That alone seems to bring a shred of relief to the Weyrleader and coupled with his knowing of her passion for exploring probably explains why he has her by her side - promises and their current relationship completely aside. "It's recovered well then, if it is the same area." He murmurs thoughtfully, taking one last long look around the clearing, taking in some mental landmarks before he takes a long, inhale of breath and exhales heavily. "Lets get this done, then. Maybe tonight we'll be left undisturbed if we find nothing." Th'ero is obviously still annoyed that their previous night had been cut short, thanks to Dtirae's sniping driving P'on to desperate measures, but aside from the cheeky remark, the Weyrleader is soon focused on the task as he strides towards the forest and slips into the shadows. The moment he crosses that invisible barrier between clearing and forest, his whole demeanor changes as he settles into the all familiar stance of a well trained guard and of one reasonably familiar with trekking silently through the underbrush.

Kimmila nods, "Forests usually grow back very thick and healthy after a fire." Checking her boot laces to make sure they're done up nice and tight, she follows after him with a soft snort. "What did he want, anyway?" she asks, moving into the shadows behind him, keeping enough space between them that they'd have room to fight, but not so much space that they can get separated. Her steps are soft, her movements fluid.

"He wanted for me to speak to Dtirae. Which I did and it turns out she's been bottling up her emotions concerning Stonehaven. Explains her mood." Th'ero murmurs in a low voice when Kimmila is close enough to hear and there's a faint edge of relief in the Weyrleader's tone then too. Maybe he had concerns it was Zuvaleyuth's time to rise? Whatever the reason, it's lost; as his expression remains an unreadable mask save for the obvious look of concentration and observation. There's a pause of silence before he speaks up again, "Convinced her to at least speak with P'on if she trusts no other." He'll wait for Kimmila's response before he moves off again, moving as silently as possible through the forests and keeping low and as hidden as possible. There seems to be little in the way of life concerning wild animals here, though occasionally an avian or wild firelizard calls out, breaking the otherwise heavy and muffled silence that a forest as thick as this seems to always carry.

Kimmila snorts softly, "That does explain a few things. Silly girl," she mutters. "Even /I/ didn't want to keep all that bottled up inside. That's rediculous. Hopefully she speaks to someone about it." She doesn't mention P'on's name. She doesn't like that guy.

"Ridiculous yes, but not entirely surprising… Stonehaven was a lot to absorb and Dtirae has a lot of stress to deal with as it is. I just didn't think she'd let it fester for so long." Th'ero points out when he gets the chance, not noticing Kimmila's lack of using P'on's name as his attention is already so divided between keeping the conversation and moving on through the forests. The Weyrleader pauses by a fallen tree, then ducks to slip under it once he's certain the coast is clear. Reaching out with a gloved hand, he braces himself on a smaller tree when the land suddenly takes a steeper incline. Just as he suspected, it all begins to slope into a shallow ravine, the edges of it almost hidden by underbrush and lingering snow. Frowning, he glances over his shoulder to Kimmila and gives a slight nod towards the ravine below. "What do you think? Worth going down? I don't think the incline is too bad. If we avoid the snow and ice, we should be able to move swiftly enough." he asks her, seeming to weigh his decisions on her outlook.

Kimmila shrugs a little bit. "Still. That girl is too proud by half." And this is /Kimm/ talking. She slips under the tree as well, moving to brace most of her weight on her hind leg, while her front one holds herself up on the slope. "I think it is," she admits. "If I needed a campsite, I'd look down there certainly." She nods at it. "You want me to go first?"

"That she is." Th'ero agrees, though doesn't seem to consider it quite a flaw - yet. And he knows well enough that it is just how Kimmila is, but that doesn't stop him from pushing back against her from time to time. But now is not the time to get into a debate and the Weyrleader lets the topic drift as he turns his head to scan the ravine below them. "Mhm, seems almost too perfect." He murmurs, then glances back to the bluerider and shakes his head. "I'll go." Of course he would. And before she can protest, his grip on the tree loosens and he begins to nimbly make his way down, taking his time and moving as silently as he can. He'll wait for her to join him once he reaches the bottom though he's far from relaxed and alert for anything, seen or heard.

Kimmila rolls her eyes a bit when he starts down first. Of /course/ he would. She follows after, gloved hands touching trees as she follows, weight held back to keep herself balanced and taking care to avoid the icy patches. Mud is easier to navigate. When they reach the bottom she looks around, brows knit in thought. "Which way?" she asks, standing on a rock to avoid the water that flows sluggishly down the ravine, pooling in places and vanishing underground altogether in others. Her hand rests on her knife hilt as she looks around, and then up to the rim on both sides.

Th'ero glances down to the ground, where the water pools and runs down from the slopes and frowns heavily for a moment. He then takes a deep breath and jerks his head in one direction. "This way. Water is moving down past us. If anyone is camping here or has camped here, they'd most likely be up that way where it may be a little drier." Or so the Weyrleader assumes. His hand comes up to his dagger as well and he deftly unbuckles the sheath before letting his hand drop down. Now if he has to draw his weapon, he can do it quickly enough. Again, Th'ero takes the lead, avoiding the worst of the ice and snow or where the mud is too thick. At one point, he'll gesture for Kimmila to take the lead as he has to back track to her side of the ravine when the mire in the middle becomes almost impassable.

Kimmila follows along behind, occasionally glancing over her shoulder to make sure they aren't being followed and to make sure they didn't miss anything. Personally, she would have gone up stream, where the water might be more fresh, but she doesn't debate with him on it. Reaching a sharp bend in the ravine, the water has pooled pretty deeply, and Kimmila stops to study the area. "Hmm," she says, pointing to the opposite ravine wall. "Freshly fallen stone," she remarks quietly. "Could be natural." Or not. Finding a small ledge around the pool, she skirts around the bend and then holds up her hand sharply for Th'ero to halt behind her. Around the bend, the ravine opens wider and the slope eases to a much more shallow angle. It's clear there have been changes made, too, as many of the trees have been felled, leaving branches and stumps where the trunks are gone. Pointing, Kimmila nods her head to the left, up the shallow slope to where there seems to be a break in the trees. Snow and erosion have wiped away any footprints, but the chopped down trees are a dead giveaway, despite the fact that not many have been felled. From the air, it'd be very hard to see the missing trunks amongst the canopy which still drapes overhead.

Turning his head, Th'ero glances towards the opposite side of the ravine and to where Kimmila points, noting the same details she has picked up. "Could be." He agrees, but to judge by his tone, the Weyrleader is a little uncertain on that. As the bluerider moves on, he follows, only to come to a halt the moment he catches her signal. Immediately, his hand goes to his dagger and he has it half drawn as he slowly positions himself more to her side then directly behind her. It doesn't take long until Th'ero's keen gaze has taken on most of the details, his expression dropping to something cold and calculating, his mouth set in a grim line. "Damn." He growls the curse in a low whisper, "Either we've got a camp of hunters or traders, or…" And he glances up to Kimmila now, waiting to hear her thoughts on the matter.

Kimmila shrugs, "Rennies or Holdless," she says in a soft voice, though she's not really whispering. "Let's go see," she says, striking out boldly forward across the open area, leaving footprints in the mud behind her.

"Kimmila! What are you doing?" Th'ero calls out to her in a harsh and low voice, once she strikes out so boldly forwards and he catches on. Hunters, traders, Holdless or Renegades, the Weyrleader was planning something a little more subtle in his head and with the bluerider just going on ahead has him both annoyed and worried. Muttering a few more choice curses, Th'ero follows behind her. If she's so determined to go head first into it, he's at least going to be by her side. His dagger is drawn now and held carefully in hand as he inches alongside Kimmila, eyes scanning the area, as he remains tense and alert.

Kimmila glances back at him and points to the ground. "There's no prints," she points out. "I seriously doubt there's anyone here, and they've just decided not to get water." Of course there could be /other/ reasons why there's no prints, but the bluerider doesn't seem to consider them. She pauses to loosen her knife in its sheath and pull her bow forward, notching an arrow as she moves forward, a bit more stealthily this time. Approaching the thicker strand of unfelled trees, she pauses and motions for him to move to another tree. Then she edges forward, trunk by trunk, until the campsite comes into view. Then she stops to take it all in, eyes sweeping the area. The campsite is scattered beneath the larger trees, ramshackle and temporary buildings made with (presumably) the logs that were chopped down near the water. Covered in pine boughs, they would be almost impossible to see from the air. Well camouflaged from sweeps, and clearly made to be so on purpose. There are about fifteen or so little buildings, a central fire pit, and a few things left behind. A chair, a table, and a few other things are littered about the clearly deserted campsite.

Th'ero only gives Kimmila a long and narrowed look when she glances back at him, but her logic seems to sink through his annoyance and he gives a subtle nod of his head to show his agreement. Catching the motioned gesture, he moves swiftly to another tree, edging forwards in much the same way the bluerider does. The Weyrleader stops then too, leaning up against the trunk of a tree and letting his gaze sweep the camp. When it's apparent that it is well and indeed deserted, he sheathes his dagger and slips from the cover of the tree. Scowling, he carefully picks his way over to the central fire pit and crouches down to inspect the contents. "Old." Th'ero growls in frustration, as his pent up tension from being on alert for so long manifests into a flare of his temper. "Sharding clever bunch we have. They know enough how to mask from sweep riders." And that brings an almost furious glance given to the temporary buildings. Rising to his feet, he then strides over to inspect the other items left behind and none seem to do much to improve his mood.

Kimmila shrugs as she follows after him, standing while he crouches. Despite the camp's emptiness, she is still wary and keeps an eye out. "It's not hard to do," she admits, watching him as he walks around looking at things. "And this doesn't prove that this camp belonged to our group," she adds. Walking over to one of the buildings she ducks inside, and comes out with a frown. "Little footprints," she remarks. "There were kids here."

Th'ero's temper has lowering his wariness enough that he isn't as alert and it probably is a good thing Kimmila is with him and still wary enough to keep an eye out. The Weyrleader snorts in response to her observations, but he's not faulting her logic or disagreeing. It's more of him just venting his frustrations at finding no straight clues and only more mystery. "No, that's true. Could be traders or hunters. But this far off the path?" When she mentions the footprints, Th'ero's mood drops all the more grim and he gives his head a slow shake. "So either we did stumble upon an old trader camp or…" And he makes a frustrated sound, scowling as he glances away over the grounds. His hands come to rest on his hips and it's clear that he is far less then pleased.

Kimmila shakes her head, "I don't think it's /that/ old. Plus, why would Traders bother to hide? And there's really nowhere to put the wagons…" The more she looks around, the more she thinks they've found a camp that belongs to an illegitimate group. "Kids, though…that /might/ be Holdless. But…" She frowns some more.

"Yes, you're right." Th'ero murmurs in a hurried fashion, one of his hands coming up to rub at his temple as he begins to do his usual habit of pacing. Kimmila's further observations only have him grimacing, most likely coming to the same conclusion now. "But?" he presses her, keeping his outlook withheld for now.
Kimmila shakes her head, "But I can't believe kids - families - would commit the acts we saw at Stonehaven. So either this is a different group, or there's some really…messed up people traveling with this band." Frowning, she puts one hand on her hip, holding her bow loosely in the other and looks around again. "Like this," she says, pointing to one of the doorways. "See these marks? This is a height chart, I'll bet."

"No, I can't picture that either." Th'ero slows his pacing enough as his initial frustrations begin to ebb, his thoughts now focusing on one lone thing rather then multiple. Exhaling heavily, the Weyrleader scrubs wearily at his face, bringing his hand up to run it through his hair as his temper snaps and subsides. "So either it's a Holdless family or we have a hostage situation." He points out grimly, before turning his gaze to where Kimmila points to one of the doorways. The marks only serve to puzzle him though and he looks up to the bluerider, "A height chart for what?"

Kimmila blinks over at him with a bit of surprise in her gaze. "For kids. You know," she crouches down and puts her back to the post, holding her hand over her head. "You measure how tall you are, and keep track of how you're growing. But unless they were here for turns," and she turns to look at the post again, "there are several kids with this group. Probably not hostages, if they're taking the time to do this…" Her fingers absently rub over the markings. "Or I could be totally wrong," she admits with a heavy sigh. "This is frustrating."

Th'ero only meets her surprised look with a neutral one. Either this was never done with his family or the Weyrleader really is clueless when it comes to children. He makes a low noise in his throat when Kimmila explains and his brow knits together in frustration again. "This makes no sense!" he growls again and not long after Kimmila makes her own remark. That has Th'ero giving a brief and sharp laugh, though not entirely out of amusement. "It is and infuriating. Mystery upon mystery and Fort seems to abound in them." Giving one last glance about the camp, he tilts his head up as if to look up at the sky, though it's unlikely they could see much of it this deep into the forest. "Velokraeth says the storms seem to be changing directions. Do you think we'll find anything more?" he asks Kimmila as he looks down and to her, smirking as he does.

Kimmila exhales softly, looking around. "I think this is a Holdless group," she concludes. "But whether or not it's the Stonehaven one…we have no way of knowing that." She frowns, also looking at the sky, and then shakes her head. "I don't think so. They seem to have moved their things with them. I doubt we'd find more."

Th'ero seems to come to a similar conclusion, as he nods his head in agreement to Kimmila. This doesn't seem to serve his mood any good though and the Weyrleader's expression takes on a dark and brooding look. "We'll find out soon enough. Now that we know that they can mask from sweep riders, I'll be having a talk with Captain Breshir on the matter." Lingering only to stare at the fire pit, as if an answer will magically leap from it, Th'ero then gestures for Kimmila to follow as he begins to stride away and back the way they came. And while he walks a little brisker and less wary, it doesn't mean he's not keeping a look out for other signs. But neither is he bothering masking his presence.

Kimmila gives the abandoned camp one final look before she shoulders her bow and troops after the Weyrleader, a frown on her lips with her brows furrowed as she mulls over what they've seen.
Th'ero is lost in his thoughts as well, mulling over what was seen and said between them and leaving most of their walk back to the clearing where their dragons wait to silence. When they do reach the clearing, Velokraeth has moved closer to the line of trees. The moment the Weyrleader slips into view, the bronze is there and immediately begins to growl his displeasure to his rider, causing Th'ero to grimace all the more. At least he doesn't flinch, even though the pale bronze is practically looming over his rider. Some welcoming!

Varmiroth's welcome for his rider is a bit more, well…welcoming. The blue croons softly and spends a moment cradling Kimmila with his muzzle, until the rider pushes her way free. "Back to the weyr, then?" she asks, looking to Th'ero as she steps up onto her blue's forearm.

"Back to the Weyr," Th'ero replies, but barely turns his head to answer Kimmila. Instead, his attention seems mostly focused on Velokraeth and how the bronze is… not co-operating. In fact, the pale bronze settles back on his haunches which is probably not at all comfortable for him given his physical build but it makes it nigh on impossible for the Weyrleader to mount up. And while Th'ero doesn't start shouting out loud, it's obvious he's having quite the battle of wills and his anger shows enough in his expression. Velokraeth makes a series of odd chuffs then, jaw dropping in as much of a smirk or grin that a dragon can do before dropping down enough for his rider to mount. He makes it difficult though and by the time Th'ero settles in, he's in a right foul mood. Which should cool off, once Velokraeth springs airborne for a straight flight back to Fort Weyr and seemingly taking the long way back, despite the approaching storms.

Kimmila gives rider and dragon a curious look, but she knows better than to pry. Giving Varmiroth's neck a gentle pat, she climbs up into the straps and settles in for the long flight home. Er. Back to Fort.

'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.