Fort's Forests ~~ Fort Weyr - Edge of the Forest
The dragon tail river weakens a fair bit as it continues on its inexorable course to the coast, though it's grown placid. As the river weakens, so, too, does the forest begin to thin out, with gaps between the trees growing wider and underbrush becoming more prevalent. Blackberry bushes can periodically be spotted from time to time, as can avians and firelizards of all manner of color. A few hardy species of flowers can also be spotted from time to time, low-lying clusters of red, blue, yellow, and white tucked in amidst the rest of the foliage. The forest smells start to mingle with the saltwater and sea scents from beyond, a curious blending of fresh growth and acrid tang. Meanwhile, the river continues toward the craggy edge of the coast, leaving the cool darkness of the forest behind.

The forests around Fort stretch for miles upon miles. Fading into the mountains where the trees vanish and snow and rocks take over, and dropping down into the valleys where the more lush perennial strands thrive. Here, though, the evergreens reign. The beginning of the summer brings a warmth to the region and the plans have bloomed and grown. Lush carpets of vegetation line the forest floor, along with new seedling trees and the ancient trails of wandering animals. It is in these forests that a man walks, slipping from tree to tree, trying to make his way to the weyr.

In the skies above, a small group of dragons fly by in formation, moving slowly and high enough to be about of sight for the most part, blocked, as they would be from the trees below. L'da is at the front on his blue Enoth, the Thunderbird Wingsecond taking Nishka's place for this portion of the day. With him are another wingrider or two from his wing, plus any who may have volunteered to join in his scheduled sweep. He's led them here, even though with the thick forests it'd be hard to spot anyone or anything moving less they move into a clear spot. But all areas must be checked and so here they are. Below on ground, mounted and on foot, is a small patrol of guards, led by first lieutenant Yarisa. Her only contact with the riders above is the firelizards one of her guards has with them. Not exactly reliable, but there's a backup to that as well should that form of connection fail. All are on alert as they slowly weave their way through the narrow paths and so far, the man remains undiscovered, even as both guards and riders fan out into a broader sweep.

A'lin is down below with the group of guards, possibly making sure they didn't get lost or wander into a pit or something. He's got his graduation gift from Melze with him, a bow. Also a quiver of arrows just in case they run into some sort of trouble. he searches around for signs of something other than wildlife in the woods. Njordeth is probably someplace close by, if not in the air then a clearing large enough for himself that not too far off. There's plenty of signs of wildlife, but A'lin certainly hasn't spotted any human activity along their trail.

Because of the nerves and tension that the goldrider has recently been rid of, she remains in the air with the other riders. Quiet, saying nothing and simply following formation rather than trying to take the lead of anything. There's been no time for the junior to lead anything to do with the incident especially considering her reaction to it all. But, they are in the air now, scanning the ground with brows drawn into a frown and Zuvaleyuth being uncharacteristically quiet.

Hatskel stops when he sees the dragons above, peering through the thick canopy of pine boughs. He takes a deep breath and steadies himself against one of the tree trunks, and then places two dirty fingers to his lips and blows a piercing whistle. "Oy!" he shouts, his voice grating but still carrying, "riders!" He is painfully thin and gaunt, standing about 5'9. Strong once, a hard, hard winter has whittled him down to nearly nothing, and his clothes hang off of him in patched tatters. Far too big for him, which works to his advantage as his coat nearly wraps around him twice. Despite the warmth of the summer weather, he still wears gloves and a hat pulled low over his shoulder length brown hair.

It's probably a good thing A'lin has join them. While the guards are fairly knowledgeable, they aren't that entirely familiar with all of the forested areas Fort has to offer. Especially this far off the normal paths and so it's no surprise when Yarisa turns her runner around and nudges it to a trot until she reigns up beside the brownrider. "Glad you could join us." She says with a brisk nod and a grim set to her expression. Small and of a wiry build, the first lieutenant keeps her graying hair cropped very short, which only adds to her narrow features. And she's all business this one - it's any wonder if she can laugh or even smile. "Any signs?" Though she suspects the answer will be the same her guards have been giving her all day and for the last several, she asks all the same. As the whistle echoes through the forest, Yarisa starts and turns her head abruptly to the sound. "That was not from one of mine." She says and then hurriedly adds, "Pass word on to L'da and the others, if they don't already know." And then she's off, spurring her runner forwards to regroup her guards and then seek out the source.

Above, it's not L'da or Enoth who hear the whistle, but one of the lower flying wingriders, who then echo the alert to all among the patrol. The Wingsecond's hold on his straps tighten and then with a signal to the riders, orders them to land in a nearby clearing, with orders to then dismount and meet up with the guards. Hopefully that will lead this mysterious man out, or else he's about to be routed out by armed guards and riders.

A'lin generally knew his way around the wilderness that surrounded Fort. At least he was savvy enough to find his way back to the trails, and from there which way was the weyr. A'lin of course is all smiles, though the mustache he normally sports has vanished from his face. Otherwise he looks like normal. "Glad to be out here with you guys! I haven't seen any signs of human activity, no. Some wherry droppings, a set of tunnelsnake tracks…" Ada is interrupted by the whistle though. He sends word to Njordeth, who will likely send word to Zuvaleyuth. If she hasn't gotten word already. A'lin nods to Yarisa, then heads off at a full sprint in the direction of the whistle.

Hatskel lifts his hands, palms out and empty and starts walking towards the clearing. It's hard to miss the sounds of dragons landing, and he steels his nerve and strides on, stumbling slightly despite his attempts to walk with more dignity and pride. When he reaches the clearing he holds his hands up high. "I surrender," he says, his chin jerking upwards and his voice firm. "I know what happened at Stonehaven. I was there. I will trade that information for the safety of myself and my daughter. And some food." The words sound rehearsed as he announces them, staring fixedly at a tree on the other side of the clearing. His weight shifts and he wobbles, nearly falls, but catches himself and straightens again. Waiting for his fate, be it an arrow through the heart or mercy.

Oh, the guard would be able to find their way back. It's just knowing where they're going to start that is the trickier part and likely to wind up with someone falling into something, despite all their training. At least all are able to find the clearing that L'da has chosen to land in and they arrive, in formation and quite obviously armed and on the alert. The Wingsecond hangs back with the other riders, while his blue backs off as close to the forest edge as he can, posture tensed and eyes whirling yellow and red. Even the wingriders are armed and the sight would likely cause even a group of people pause. So when Hatskel beings to walk into the clearing, there is the sound of bows being drawn and a few take defensive stances, guard and riders alike. But when it appears it's only him, there's a confused look passed from Wingsecond to First Lieutenant.

Yarisa, still mounted on her runner, watches his approach with a cold and calculating look, grimacing a little at the man's condition. His words though obviously startle more then a few. Who knew the missing link would be a person? "How can we trust you, if what you say is true?" she calls out, holding up one arm that signals to her guards to stand down. So, unfortunately, there will be no arrows flying. But Hatskel may not be out of danger quite yet. L'da also signals for the riders to stand down, though the Wingsecond looks less then pleased. "Someone needs to report back." He says, keeping his voice low enough for the riders around him to hear and likely having Enoth repeat the same.

A'lin is among those who have drawn their bows. But since he's by himself A'lin lowers his weapon almost immediately. Plus he doesn't -look- armed. And let's face it, in a fist fight Ada would break the man in his current state. "Might be better if we bind him up and take him back to the weyr?" Ada gets the message about reporting back, but he's not near his dragon, so he's stuck on the ground. He just stands around with his arms crossed, looking big and threatening.

Hatskel ignores the sounds of bows being drawn, except to flinch slightly. Then he laughs, and it's a hollow, bitter sound. "You can't," he says, his dark eyes focusing in on Yarisa. "But I was there. I've got this to prove it," and he moves his left hand to pluck something from a small pocket on the outside of his coat, tossing it down onto the ground in front of him. It's a Stonehaven patch - a badge ripped from someone's jacket or tunic. He grimaces. "My daughter's starvin'. I'm done with that group. Holdless we are but I never signed up to be part of murder. I'll go with you, tell you all you need to know. Just give me food and freedom for me and my daughter." His eyes glance around, flicking briefly to A'lin when the man's words about binding him reach his ears. His lip curls slightly, but then settles back into an impassive mask.

There's a rustle from the guards and a few warning hisses from some of the flightier dragons when Hatskel reaches for the item. When it proves to be no weapon, one of the guards steps forwards to retrieve the badge and hand it to Yarisa. The first lieutenant takes one look at it and her features harden, eyes flicking back to Hatskel, unreadable though she gives the holdless man a long look. Then the badge is tossed to a wingrider, who then hands it to an unsettled L'da. "A badge is little proof, but I suppose it's a start." Yarisa admits reluctantly, her eyes never leaving Hatskel even as her runner shifts impatiently beneath her. She frowns sharply then, "Where is your daughter now?" It's obvious that Hatskel will be coming with them, so she doesn't bother mentioning that.

L'da overhears A'lin's comment on binding the man and glancing up from the badge in his hand, which closes tightly over it before tucking it away, he gives the unfamiliar brownrider a considering look. "Not a half bad idea." The Wingsecond agrees, nodding his head a little in approval. "But not back to the Weyr. Could be some ploy." Not that anyone would be insane to try anything, but doesn't hurt to be cautious, right? After a brief pause and likely a knowing glance passed between him and Yarisa, L'da gestures to A'lin, another rider and two guards. "Bind him." Will be all the Wingsecond orders. "But he's to remain with the guards." And while A'lin may not be of Thunderbird, clearly L'da wants to use his intimidating size to some use. And just incase Hatskel does fight.

A'lin looks over at Yarisa. This was her show to run, really. Whatever happened, they'd have to keep a close eye on this one. Or perhaps it was L'da's. Though the brownrider is also curious where the man's daughter is as well. A'lin approaches the man. "Sorry. But it's for the safety of everyone. You'll need to open your coat up for us. We'll need to check you for weapons, as well." Because Ada didn't much feel like being stabbed today. And if he struggles, well, A'lin will just be wrestling him to the ground. But if he cooperates, then everything will be smooth and easy! He'll let one of the guards do the actual binding though. The only things he knew how to bind were the legs of dead animals. And a live human might not like that much.

Hatskel's chin jerks upwards at the order to bind, but the man complies with both A'lin's orders and the guards', even though his eyes are angry. His pride is taking a right thrashing. "In an old cothold shed northwest of here. She was too weak to walk and I," he hesitates, grimacing, "couldn't carry her no more." His voice hardens. "She didn't have nothin' to do with Stonehaven, a'ight? She wasn't there. So you treat her nice, else I won't tell you shit."

It's a little of both really, when it comes down who's commanding or leading the group or at least is attempting to be shared as equally as possible between L'da and Yarisa, since Thunderbird is tied in to the guards. So while the Wingsecond made the official order, Yarisa doesn't question or counter it. While A'lin moves forwards, the other rider flanks him, standing back as well to be sure that Hatskel cooperates. The guards then step forwards once it's clear he's relatively harmless and make short work of binding the holdless man in a way that he can at least still walk, but not have the use of his hands. Seems like there won't be any stabbing or fighting today. At his words, Yarisa's expression never changes from its previous coldness, though L'da's and few of the riders react with some pity and perhaps some of the other guards. "We would never harm a child." She replies crisply and with a faint sniff at the idea that they'd punish the child, "So you're daughter is safe. Is it only she who is there? We can send for her now, while you're to be transported to the guard post south of here." She informs him at the same time that she signals the guards to prepare to move.

L'da does the same, the Wingsecond gesturing for most of the riders to mount up but not to take off. He'll motion for A'lin to join him, the bluerider having a few last questions for the brownrider. "I know you're not of this wing, but are you required back at the Weyr? I've only a few riders with me now and I need at least one to either go fetch this man's daughter or return to Fort to report. There's the Hold's too." And he spreads his hands slightly in a helpless gesture. Likely Enoth has passed work on to Nishka, their Wingleader. But it's all about time and organization, right?

A'lin frowns a bit at Hatskel and nods to him. "Don't worry. I won't let anything happen to her." Ada gives Hatskel a pat on the shoulder as they take him off. Then he looks to L'da. "She might be scared of the dragons. I'll find her and get her back to the weyr. If she's in immediate danger then I'll fly her out. Judging by her father, she's probably starved half to death." Scared or not. If she was dying he wasn't going to risk her life because she was scare of his dragon. "Njordeth is in a clearing a little west of here, but I'll have him keep an eye out." No, he wasn't of the wing, but he was still of the weyr.

Hatskel cooperates without comment, his eyes leveling at Yarisa when she speaks. "'er name's Laurali. Tell her that trundlebug sent you." The man says the silly nickname without hesitation or embarassment. "She'll know I sent 'ya. And yeah, she's th' only one." He fixes A'lin with a narrow stare, and then goes off wherever he's being led. Putting his and his daughter's life in the hands of these unknown riders does not sit well with the Holdess man, but what choice did he have?

Not much of a choice, it seems. As Hatskel is lead away, Yarisa lingers behind only to glance back to L'da and A'lin, nodding her head. "We'll keep him in a makeshift brig. Obviously feed him. We've no Healer though. Probably best one is sent. He won't come to any harm, despite his claims." Meaning she'll keep anyone from roughing him up IF word spreads. With her clipped and short speech done, the first lieutenant turns her runner and trots away down the same path her guards have gone. Apparently, the rescuing of the daughter will be left to the riders.

L'da grimaces at this fact, but seems relieved when A'lin steps up to offer. "Likely she will. But you heard him. Just use the pet name… and perhaps bribe her with food. If she's as starved as he, she'll be desperate enough to overcome her fear of you, even without Njordeth." How… pleasant. Eyeing the brownrider now, the Wingsecond gives him another long, thoughtful look. "Unless she's about to die, it's probably best not to fly her to the Weyr right now. Take her to her father… it's bad enough she's alone. And we may need this man's trust." With a sigh, L'da then shakes his head, tucking the patch into his riding jacket. "I'm being called back to Fort. If you wish, you can take another rider with you but have Njordeth keep Enoth informed. Otherwise I trust you. Clear skies and good luck!" With that, he turns away and promptly mounts up, his blue then leaping up into the air and barely clearing the trees before winking Between.

A'lin nods. "Laurali. Trundlebug sent me… got it." Even if he is giving the holdless man a strange look. Hopefully his daughter was young, and didn't go into a flying rage and try to murder Ada when he goes to pick her up. There's a nod to the guards. It was their prerogative to do what they saw fit. Clearly the man wasn't eating, so at least some food in his belly was good. "Mm. I'm sure I can carry her back. I've got some dried meat with me, so hopefully that will tempt her enough to at least come with me. To her father… sure." Ada gives a salute to L'da as he heads off. "I should be fine on my own. Thanks." Once the riders are gone Ada moves into a jog in the direction Hatskel had pointed him in. Why not get some exercise while he's out here?

'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.