Warning: Swearing, Violence

Fort Weyr - Th'ero and Velokraeth's Ledge

As the afternoon wore on and most of Fort Weyr continued about it’s business, Th’ero had settled himself for a quiet wind down of… paperwork. So when a certain Western bluerider arrived for a visit, the Weyrleader decided on a better option on passing the time and one that was best done in the privacy of his weyr. And it’s there that they remain, so far into their intimacy that even Velokraeth is distracted as L’da’s patrol returns and that the Wingsecond’s blue Enoth is particularly agitated. Taking the steps leading up to the administration complex two at a time, L’da is so driven by the news he carries that he doesn’t think to wait and have Enoth bespeak Velokraeth (though at the time, the poor blue is likely being hounded for information from others) and Th’ero never thought to lock the door. So the Wingsecond simply shoulders the door open, calling out, “Th’ero, sir! We’ve made a breakthrough! We’ve—” Whatever else was meant to be said is drowned out by Velokraeth’s sudden and rather loud protest at L’da’s abrupt arrival, likely spurred by his rider’s alarm. It’s enough to have the Wingsecond backing away towards the door, mouth open in silent protest and hands coming up sightly in a defensive gesture. Oops? And it also drowns out the rather harsh and colorful curses Th’ero is likely growling right at that moment, hastily groping for his pants and in a right foul mood for being interrupted. “Damn it all! Does no one remember to knock these days?” he grumbles as he fumbles in trying to dress himself at least half decently.

Well, Kimmila /was/ enjoying herself until the interruption, when her noises of pleasure turn into startled swearing. Muttering angrily, the bluerider looks around for her clothes before she realizes they’re in a pile in the bronzerider’s office. (Don’t ask.) So she instead wraps herself in a sheet, toga style, and waits for Th’ero to head out first. Running fingers through her messy hair, there is /no/ doubt what activity she was just engaged in.

Despite the interruption and obvious urgency, Th’ero glances sideways to Kimmila when the bluerider begins to wrap herself in one of the sheets. As he shrugs himself back into his quite wrinkled tunic, he steps over to her for one last hurried kiss that is likely meant to be apologetic as well. Then with one final lingering look, he storms off, tunic still half buttoned and his hair a tussled mess. One look at the flush still lingering to his cheeks and neck and one couldn’t doubt what activity they were sharing. Or, it could be passed as anger and Th’ero plans to play it that way. As he strides angrily into the main room of his weyr, where L’da still stands (now respectfully by the door), the Weyrleader gives him a narrowed look and then promptly gestures for the Wingsecond to join him near the alcove leading to Velokraeth’s wallow. It’ll take him well away and out of line of sight of his office, so Kimmila has a chance to escape now. Th’ero also places himself to stand directly in front of L’da, arms crossing as he all but looms over the smaller rider. “This better be good.” He warns with a smirk, which is echoed by the Wingsecond. “It is Sir, we’ve…” L’da begins, only to be cut off by the Weyrleader again. “Wait. There’s another who should hear this.” That earns Th’ero a curious look, but L’da wisely keeps his mouth shut on the matter and doesn’t ask questions or try to glance past and around him.

Kimmila returns the kiss, her brows knit in concern at L’da’s news. Whatever it is, it has to be important and urgent to warrant this sort of treatment. As Th’ero leaves, Kimmila trails after him. She doesn’t bother going to put her clothes on, though. Maybe she feels more free just wrapped in a sheet, or maybe she’s wanting to embarrass L’da and hopefully teach him a lesson about barging in on the Weyrleader’s weyr. Whatever her reason, she doesn’t go get her clothes and instead walks up to stand beside Th’ero, frowning at the Wingsecond and pushing a wild strand of hair behind her ear.

Neither Th’ero nor L’da are expecting Kimmila to join them wrapped in a sheet, but her presence isn’t met with any objection. The Weyrleader only turns to regard her with a frown that edges between surprise and amusement, while the Wingsecond only gapes before recovering. Realizing how foolish he was, he has the decency to at least flush slightly and duck his head away, clearing his throat. “My, ah –apologies for interrupting.” He begins, which has Th’ero turning to focus on the Wingsecond with renewed interest, though his annoyance is still simmering. L’da’s eyes flick between his Weyrleader and the sheet-clad Kimmila next to him and then with a steadying breath, spills the news that drove him to such measures. “But it’s important. My patrol this afternoon, along with first lieutenant Yarisa and her guards, and volunteer rider A’lin stumbled upon a clue concerning Stoneheaven. Or rather… a man.” Th’ero’s mood changes abruptly, posture tensing as he fixes L’da with a long and piercing look. “And?” The Weyrleader presses sharply, causing the Wingsecond to clear his throat again and shift a little beneath the sudden screwtiny. “He’s… well, he’s a turncloak of sorts. Just shows up out of the forests, hands up and claiming he knows everything and will tell us all if we offer him safety and food for him and his daughter. He had this,” And here the Wingsecond pauses, reaching into his jacket’s pocket to withdraw the torn scrap of cloth that still has the sewn patch clinging to it. It’s offered then to both Th’ero and Kimmila and just the sight of it has the Weyrleader taking a sharp inhale of breath, yet he doesn’t reach for it.

Kimmila adjusts the sheet to make sure it doesn’t slip, green eyes focused on L’da. She only nods at his apology, posture tensing as he continues to tell his story. Then with a soft gasp, she reaches out to take the patch. The sudden movement causes the sheet to slip (omg a boob) and then she’s snatching it up again. Without another word, the bluerider presses the patch at Th’ero and turns to stalk off to his office, shutting the door firmly behind her. Hopefully she’s going to get dressed. Her voice calls out from behind the door. “Where is he now?”

If L’da notices the slip (and likely he does), the Wingsecond is very wise indeed not to either leer or make the slightest of hints that he’s seen, less Th’ero be the first Weyrleader to throw a ranking rider from off his ledge. It does silently ramp up the awkwardness though for a breadth of a second and then Th’ero is taking the badge in hand, a heavy frown settling on his features. “Yarisa has him held in a makeshift brig of sorts at one of the guard posts. Enoth has the coordinates. She’s requested a Healer. The turncloak… man, whatever he is… is in rough shape. Been a hard winter that much is obvious.” And while there seems to be some pity in the Wingsecond’s voice, he also grimaces as though he’s at conflict with that emotion. At least he speaks up loud enough for Kimmila to hear. Th’ero on the other hand, shows little to no emotion, aside from a stony and hardly readable mask. His hand does close around the badge though and his arms drop back down to his sides. “What else?” he asks and L’da shakes his head then. “We haven’t interrogated him yet. Figured that could wait until we reported. But, you should know… he’s got a daughter. A’lin volunteered to fetch her and bring her to the guard post.” That decision seems to have Th’ero frowning even heavier now and L’da only falls silent because of the long look the Weyrleader gives him, relaxing only when the bronzerider nods faintly in approval.

Kimmila steps out of the Weyrleader’s office fully dressed, running fingers through her hair to try and tame it. “There’s too many damn kids involved in this,” the bluerider says heatedly, stopping beside Th’ero once more while she reaches down to adjust the beltknife on her hip, settling it into its proper place. “Give us a minute, L’da, okay?” She has /zero/ rank here – not only is she just a wingrider, but she’s a wingrider from another weyr. And yet her request has the air of a command about it. Who knows if he obeys, though.

L’da’s grimace only intensifies in agreement to Kimmila’s statement on children and when she dismisses him, the Wingsecond does turn to go, but hesitates. It’s only when Th’ero nods again that the bluerider excuses himself and with barely withheld relief, trying to walk briskly from the weyr and not run. He’s undoubtedly going to report now to Nishka in person and hopefully won’t be knocking down more doors. But if they need him, they only have to have Velokraeth or Varmiroth bespeak Enoth. The blue will likely tell them all they need to know. Th’ero tucks the Stonehaven badge away and with a brief look to Kimmila, turns to begin to gather his dagger and his flight jacket as well. “I won’t be bringing this girl back to the Weyr. She can remain with her father. Smart move on L’da’s part, as we now have something of use against this… holdless man if he proves to be uncooperative after all.” He murmurs distractedly, thoughts no doubt already beginning to race as the Weyrleader shrugs into his flight jacket, buckling his dagger to his side and then hunting down his riding boots. “What do you propose we do?”

Kimmila goes to find a comb, pulling it through her tangles until she can twist her hair into a quick braid. Then she offers him the comb. He should look presentable, after all. She lifts a brow at the Weyrleader. “You’d use a child against her own father?” she asks, her voice bland as she sits down to re-lace her boots, making sure they’re nice and snug. “I propose we go meet this man and see what he has to say.” It’s that simple, right?

Th’ero eyes the comb for a moment and then with a sigh, grabs it and begins to try to arrange his hair into something a little more presentable and less wild. Even as he does, he continues to frown heavily as he gives Kimmila a curious and almost wary look for her bland remark. Sensing he’s perhaps on the edge of a sensitive subject, the Weyrleader’s murmured response is a little cautious and guarded. “Not entirely.” He says with a grimace. “Obviously the man has been driven to desperate measures. I don’t plan to dangle his daughter in front of him like some prize out of reach. She’ll be brought to the post and fed and reunited. If I do use her, it will be as a last measure and likely just to bluff. I’m not cruel hearted, though some of the Holders…” As he sets the comb aside, Th’ero suddenly utters another noise of frustration and the poor comb all but gets tossed down. “Damn it, the Lord Holders. They’ll want reports on this. Likely question the man themselves and by their own methods.” Which to judge by his tone, he won’t likely approve of. The Weyrleader scrubs at his face then, mulling over his thoughts and for a moment carrying a distracted look as he speaks through Velokraeth. It takes only a few seconds and then he’s blinking again to clear his head. “Word has only begun to spread. We have a few hours, at best, to get to this holdless man before we’ve got Lord Holders major and minor, as well as a few cotholders breathing down our necks. Neyuni and Dtirae can stall them, if need be.” So much for being simple, but Th’ero does give Kimmila’s suggestion a nod. “Velokraeth has the coordinates. Shall we then?” The last of his words are almost growled and his hand unconsciously goes to the dagger at his side.

Kimmila nods as she watches and listens, only glancing away when a brown firelizard appears from between, her wingrider’s knot dangling from his talons. She takes it without a word and fastens it onto her shoulder, and the firelizard does not stick around. Adjusting her blade in its sheath, she checks to make sure her hair will stay put and nods, hands on her hips. “We can’t have a mob,” she says flatly. “What I would do is send dragonriders to deliver this message to all the major Holds, and have them wait for no more than two passengers each. Cotholders can come too, if they make it to the Hold in time. Fly them to the nearest Hold closest to this post, and have them wined and dined while they wait. Then, when we’re done questioning them, fly them to the post two at a time. That way there’s no mob of angry Holders questioning this man all at once, or beating down the door. The last thing we need is for a bunch of angry people to murder this man and destroy our only clue to this whole mess.” While she speaks, her eyes are distracted and distant, lost in thought as she thinks aloud, speaking the ideas as they come to her. “And yes. Neyuni and Dtirae should be at the Hold as well.” She pauses. “Neyuni at least. Dtirae might do better at the post, since she’s so green. And I’m not sure she wouldn’t do something foolish if the Holders start pushing for information. Mother should go with Neyuni.”

Th’ero pays no mind to the arrival of the firelizard, his thoughts and minds focused on larger things. At the mention of the mob, the Weyrleader snorts and his mouth draws into a tense line as he no doubt follows Kimmila’s advice with a grim sense of approval. “You’re right.” He mutters and then grows distracted again as he passes on more orders through Velokraeth, if the rumbling and chuffing from the pale bronze from the wallow is any sign. Shaking his head then, Th’ero scrubs at his jaw as he adds, “I’ve passed word on to Wingleader Gr’ant. He’ll have his most trusted and experienced Roc wingriders out to the Holds and manage the issue of transportation. I’ve also had Nishka informed and she’ll be working with him and likely send a Thunderbird wingrider or two as backup less things get… heated.” Cause nothing is more imposing then a group of riders, rather then one. Tilting his head a little to the side, he gives Kimmila a long and searching look for a moment and for a breadth of a second, looks amused given the circumstances. “Agreed. They’ll be going to Fort Hold then, I presume? We can send the other Holders there. Dtirae can come to the post. She may be green, but it may be a good idea to have a gold nearby in case things get out of hand.” Th’ero seems to be the complete opposite of stressed, though some does linger hidden behind his neutral mask. Given a purpose and task he can grasp and focus on, the Weyrleader is oddly calm – at least on the outside. Making a few last checks to be sure he has all he needs, he then strides over to Kimmila and then promptly draws her close and tight into an embrace, then an almost fierce kiss. Just as abrupt as his move is, it ends and straightening his shoulders, he takes a heavy and slow breath, exhaling in a near sigh. “Let’s get this done.” Th’ero then turns to stride to Velokraeth’s wallow, likely to prepare the bronze with his straps.

Kimmila nods, “I think that’s a good plan,” she murmurs, green eyes watching him closely. At his sudden movements towards her the bluerider waits, unsure of his intentions until they’re made clear. And when they are, her arms loop around his neck and she presses tightly against him, returning the kiss firmly. Then she’s stepping back and shrugging into her riding jacket, nodding in agreement as she follows him out onto the ledge to pull on Varmiroth’s straps as well. A few ledges down, Wiyaneth is also being readied, the old, pale queen sitting tense with her tail lashing and eyes spinning with flecks of red and orange. That should be enough on its own to keep any wayward Holders in line.

Velokraeth is impatient and tensed as well, though the pale bronze waits, crouched and eyes whirling red and orange as he watches from his ledge. Wings will rustle now and again and the tip of his tail will twitch, but for once he’s strangely quiet. Th’ero makes the final checks on the straps, and then returns inside for a moment. When he returns, he has held tightly in one hand the rough leather scabbard of a short sword. From the hilt alone, it’s obvious it’s a simple one and likely his for many Turns. But he doesn’t belt it on. Instead, he stores it carefully in one of the larger sacks on Velokraeth’s straps. Turning then to Kimmila, Th’ero gives her a brief smile though it’s so twisted it’s more of smirk. “We’ll go straight to the post. I’ll have M’lo keep watch and order here. Does Varmiroth need the coordinates?” And as he asks, the Weyrleader begins to pull on his riding gloves and helmet too, both of which he fished out of another sack. He’ll linger then only to confirm a few last details with Kimmila before he’s mounting up and buckling in, Velokraeth giving a deep-throated rumble as he rises to his feet and beings to stretch the cramped muscles from his stunted forelimbs.

Kimmila watches the arrival of the sword without comment, checking her own straps to make sure she has her bow. Faranth only knows how this day will end. Best to be prepared. With a shake of her head, she answers Th’ero’s final few questions before she too mounts up, buckling in as Varmiroth stretches his wings and then kicks off into the sky, hovering and waiting for Velokraeth to go ahead and lead the way to the post.

It is true, who knows how the day will end? And that’s likely why the sword was brought out as a last minute decision. Th’ero’s gaze follows Kimmila as she mounts up and Varmiroth takes to the skies, the Weyrleader lingering only to pass on a few last orders and then Velokraeth leaps from his ledge, broad wings flaring open as he soars upwards. Joining with the blue, he flies along side his smaller brother while Th’ero gives the signal to go ahead. Coordinates are shared one last time and then the bronze vanishes Between.

Fort Weyr – High River Tavern

This dark, musty place was once the common room of a large tavern, called the High River Tavern, but now all that remains is a single dusty bar, its wood worn and cracked, with a wall of shelves sitting empty behind it. A few ancient bottles might remain, tipped over or pushed far into the corners, but their contents have long-since evaporated or turned sour. The scuffed floor still bears the stains and scrapes from past use, and of the now-missing furnishings, only the occasional broken chair or rotting scrap of wood remains. High above, thick mats of cobwebs hang from the ceiling, which forms a wide dome overhead. Along the walls, the old glowbasket hooks are still visible, but the glows themselves are conspicuously absent. A narrow staircase takes up one corner at the back, leading up into darkness.

The old tavern has been turned into a temporary guard outpost with military efficiency. The floors have been swept, cobwebs cleaned away, and broken furniture moved to another room. The cellar below has been turned into the brig, its heavy oak door kept closed and locked with two guards posted at all times. The cellar is the perfect brig with its stone lined walls and existing underground with only a few tiny windows at ground level providing circulation. In that room Hatskel and his young daughter Laurali wait, eating bread and stew, drinking water and huddling beneath warm cloaks. In the main room a large table has been found and turned into HQ, ringed with chairs that no one sits in as the guards mull around the maps of the area, debating about where the camp might be found.

The moment he emerges from Between, Velokraeth dives down towards the first available spot large enough to hold his size. The pale bronze lands with as much grace as one his size and form can allow, settling heavily to his limbs and then promptly folding his wings tight to his side. His oversized head swivels to examine the location and promptly snorts, loud and sharp, in disapproval. Whatever it is that the bronze says has Th’ero grimacing and patting the bronze on the neck. Ignoring the stares of some of the guards milling about outside, the Weyrleader dismounts, but not before storing his helmet and gloves and then pulling the sacks from the bronze’s straps. With another disapproving growl, Velokraeth spreads his wings and springs upwards once more, circling away and likely having to move locations. It’s not far, but far enough to annoy the bronze.

Th’ero turns then to glance towards the tavern, his expression betraying none of his opinions on the location. He waits outside, in no apparent rush to go charging in quite yet. The Weyrleader straightens though as he catches sight of Yarisa striding briskly towards him, the first lieutenant all business and purpose as usual and lacking much in the department of emotion aside from cold and impersonal. “Weyrleader, Sir.” She calls out, no doubt including Kimmila with a brisk nod when (and if) the bluerider joins them. “We’ve been waiting for you. A’lin succeeded in returning the girl. She, along with her father, is down below.”

Varmiroth lands second, giving Kimmila enough time to climb off. The bluerider leaves her bow and arrows on the blue’s straps, sending him off with Velokraeth before she strides over to stand beside Th’ero, acting like she belongs there even though she’s not wearing a Fort knot. Nodding in return to Yarisa, the bluerider scans the tavern. “Glad this place finally has a new use,” she mutters under her breath.

If anyone has any objections to Kimmila being by Th’ero’s side, rather then a Fortian rider, they’re wisely keeping their comments to themselves. All but Yarisa, of course, who turns her icy blue eyes towards the bluerider for her muttered comments. “It will serve as a temporary post, nothing more.” She quips, before giving an obvious disapproving look for what she considers to be an interloping wingrider. Western has no purpose to meddle in Fort’s affairs, according to her strict mind. “Shall we then, Sir?” The lieutenant will add and from her tone, it’s obvious that she means Th’ero alone. So she’s surprised when the Weyrleader gives her a hard look and speaks in a level but firm voice that carries an edge to it – one that hints at his anger and also makes it known that she is not to over step herself. “Kimmila and I,” he stresses, “Will proceed down to question him and will do so alone. You, however, lieutenant, will remain above and organize your guards. Dtirae will be here shortly and keep you informed.” Yarisa’s expression falls, lips drawing into a smirk but despite that, the lieutenant straightens her shoulders and juts her chin upwards. “Yes, Sir.” She says in an all too cold voice. Th’ero has made no friend with her, it seems and it’s likely the guard’s pride has been piqued. The Weyrleader will hear of it later from Captain Breshir, but for the moment his order’s stand and Yarisa turns stiffly to lead them towards the tavern-turned guard post.

If the situation were any less serious, Kimmila would’ve given Yarisa a wink or blown her a kiss as she walks past. But she doesn’t, instead just nodding with a murmured thanks to the guard. Walking towards the cellar door, Kimmila stands aside while the guards unlock and pull it open, the the bluerider also waits for Th’ero to descend the old wooden stairs first. Since she knows he’ll protest if she takes the point position. Down below, Hatskel rises from his seat at the table, motioning for Laurali to move behind him. Suspiciously, the two captives wait.

Th’ero had tensed a little during the barbed exchange between Yarisa, not quite certain how Kimmila would react. It ebbs away though; the moment the bluerider just nods and murmurs her thanks. Despite the seriousness of the situation, the Weyrleader shows his approval (and perhaps apologetic) by briefly slipping his arm around Kimmila as they walk towards the tavern and then inside. He’ll let her move aside though, when Yarisa leads them to the cellar door and orders her guards to unlock it. Nodding stiffly to the lieutenant, he ignores her narrowed look and bare nod as he draws himself to his full height, arms rigid to his sides as he descends the stairs first and slowly. Once Kimmila passes through, the door is shut behind her and the heavy sound of the lock being set back in place and the scuffle of boots are heard as the guards move back into position and Yarisa likely storms off back to the main room. Once he reaches the bottom, Th’ero turns to face the two captives, head up and gaze fixing firmly to Hatskel in an unreadable look. He doesn’t acknowledge Laurali yet, as his interests lay more in the holdless man than his daughter for now. The Weyrleader stands in a way too that his knot can be clearly seen, along with the dagger at his side, as he waits for Kimmila to join him.

Kimmila follows Th’ero down the stairs, though she turns and frowns when the doors lock behind them. That was unanticipated. Still, she steps up beside the Weyrleader and looks between the two captives – from their thin and gaunt frames to the little girl’s wide eyes and stringy, messy brown hair as she peeks out from behind her father. Hatskel eyes Th’ero, ignoring Kimmila as life-hardened men are wont to do. “I don’t want m’daughter here for this,” he says flatly. “She don’ need no more bad things in ‘er life.” Laurali makes a soft sound of protest and clings to her father’s tunic, but he gruffly detangles her fingers from the fabric. “No. You can’t hear this.”

Th’ero likely takes in the state of Hatskel and has to fight not to grimace in distaste or show any pity or sympathy. Even at the holdless man’s words, the Weyrleader’s gaze does not waver, only nodding his head to the request. “Of course.” He says firmly and in a low, level voice with an air of subtle command. “She’ll be cared for and safe.” Now he breaks his look to turn towards Kimmila, gesturing for her to step closer. When the bluerider is close enough, Th’ero bends his head down to murmur quietly to her. “Take her upstairs,” he tells her, just loud enough that Hatskel can likely hear if he chooses to. “The other riders are here, she’ll be safe with them.” He omits the name and ranks of those riders and also avoids putting Yarisa in charge of the girl, likely still irked at the lieutenants attitude.

Kimmila tilts her head slightly towards Th’ero to hear his order, and the bluerider nods. “C’mon,” she says, looking at Laurali and offering the girl a bit of a smile. Turning, she heads up the stairs and calls through the door to the guards to open it. As the lock is being removed, Hatskel gives his daughter a shove when she tries to cling to him again. “No. M’not saying it again.” He narrows his eyes at his daughter, and the girl scurries off after Kimmila, sniffling and clutching her cloak to her body. Bluerider and girl vanish and the door is closed once more, but the lock is not returned. Not yet. Down in the cellar, Hatskel eyes Th’ero. “Never learned to read m’knots,” the man admits. “You Weyrleader?”

Th’ero watches in silence as Kimmila gestures for the girl to follow and then heads up the stairs. It’s only when Laurali passes by him that the Weyrleader finally gives the girl a passing look. Again though, his expression remains unchanged and when the door closes, his attention turns back to Hatskel. A single brow quirks up at the man’s question and Th’ero nods his head, careful not to let his surprise show. “I am.” He says in a firm and low voice as he takes a slow stride or two forwards, gesturing for Hatskel to seat himself on one end of the table. “Th’ero, Weyrleader of Fort and rider of bronze Velokraeth.” He supplies, all while giving the holdless man a long and searching look, as he remains standing just a few feet away. The Weyrleader is taking it slow, carefully watching Hatskel’s reaction and mood. “And you? Your name?” Cause obviously, he has no identifiable rank.

The table is littered with dishes, plates and bowls that now only carry a few crumbs or bits of stew broth. Hatskel lowers himself slowly onto the chair, creaking despite his lack of heft. “Hatskel,” he says gruffly, watching the weyrleader. “Kinda young for a Weyrleader, aint’cha?” he asks, helping himself to some water from the jug. The door opens once more and Kimmila steps down, the door closing behind her again. She must’ve said it was stupid to keep the door locked while they were in there with Hatskel (what if they needed help?), so it does not lock. The bluerider nods to both men. “She’s in the old garden picking wildflowers.” Hatskel’s expression twists slightly, and his shoulders slump. Kimmila takes up a position at the base of the stairs, one hand resting on her dagger hilt as she stands guard and lets Th’ero conduct this interview.

Once Hatskel has seated himself, Th’ero does the same but keeps himself well on the other side of the dish-strewn table. The gruff remark earns the barest of smiles before the Weyrleader regains his flat expression. “That I am.” He confirms firmly, not denying that fact or letting his temper or annoyance rise. “But we’re not here to discuss such matters.” Th’ero falls silent then, eyes still fixed on Hatskel as Kimmila returns. He spares the quickest of glances over his shoulder to the blueirder, nodding to her reply and then turns back to the holdless man as she takes up her position. Getting straight to the point, Th’ero digs into his jacket pocket and pulls out the scrap of cloth with Stoneheaven’s badge, setting it down on the table and then sliding it towards Hatskel. “Tell me how you came to have this.” Th’ero doesn’t exactly ask, it’s more of a firm command if anything. Leaning back in his chair, the Weyrleader keeps his hands folded in his lap, rather then crossing his arms. Best to keep his hands visible, less suspicion is aroused.

Hatskel leans back in his chair with a soft sigh, his eyes briefly sad. “Wasn’t much’a fight,” he admits. “Not that we went there seekin’ that,” he adds. “We went lookin’ for food. Was winter and was hard. We were all starved. Went up ta’ Stonehaven to try and trade for some food t’take back to the camp. To our families. They wouldn’t trade with us, and Laris lost control of th’ men. When men get hungry and desperate…” He trails off, frowning angrily at the empty plates on the table. “They do things they’d never’a thought before.” Like selling out to dragonriders. He takes another sip of water and bangs the mug on the table. “Need ale.”

Th’ero listens with rapt attention and all in silence as Hatskel begins to spill the information and for a moment the Weyrleader seems suspicious on how easily the man is sharing it. But then his mood darkens and his brow settles into a heavy almost scowling frown. If he feels any pity or sympathy, it’s either very little or it’s well buried. “Laris is the leader then, of your holdless group?” Th’ero asks in a low tone and giving Hatskel another level look that only narrows when the mug is banged to the table. “Later.” He tells him with a grim set to his lips and his posture tenses a little. “I need you sober, not muddled by ale. When we’re done, I’ll have it that your supplied with however much of it you want.” A pause then and before Hatskel can protest, Th’ero fires another question at the man. “Why Stonehaven? Why not one of the minor holds or major to ask for aid?”

Hatskel scowls at the Weyrleader. “S’bad enough I sold out my fellows. You’ll bring me some fucking ale or you’ll get no more out of me.” He shifts, eyes darting towards the stairway and Kimmila, and then looking back at Th’ero. “This ain’t easy, dragonrider,” he says, voice low and laced with scorn.

Th’ero doesn’t scowl back, but anger does flash in his eyes when Hatskel curses him and then begins to stubbornly refuse the information. “I understand that.” He says in a cold and flat voice and after a considerable pause where he only stares at the holdless man. Finally, he gestures for Kimmila to see, motioning for the bluerider to pass the word on to the guards above. At least she won’t technically leave him here. “And this isn’t easy for us either. You’ve no idea what your fellow men are facing for what happened with Stonehaven. So either you gives us the information we need or I won’t be able to hold back the Holders with vague remarks and promises.” Th’ero intones gravely, not entirely meaning to threaten Hatskel, but perhaps try to put things more in perspective. “You’ll get your ale then.” Because if he can get his information through that, then all the better. Th’ero has no wish to start using the daughter.

Kimmila passes the word along, and in a few minutes she brings a mug of ale over to set beside Th’ero. She doesn’t walk to Hatskel’s side, letting the Weyrleader pass the ale over. Then she returns to her post, ignoring Hatskel checking her out. The Holdless man gives Th’ero a crooked grin and picks up the ale, gulping down half of it. When it touches his tongue he visibly relaxes, sinking a bit into his chair. Some color returns to his cheeks, and he chuckles humorlessly. “Yes, Laris is our leader,” he answers. “And we weren’t lookin’ for aid, dragonrider. We was lookin’ to trade. We’re holdless, not beggars.” There’s an important distinction there, for the man. “We knew they had food in there. They was turnin’ their noses up at our goods. The men rushed the Hold and…” He shrugs, taking another gulp of ale and nodding to the patch. “Wasn’t much’a fight.”

There’s a brief but grateful look given to Kimmila when she brings the ale, which Th’ero then promptly slides over to Hatskel. He too ignores the holdless man’s look to the bluerider, but it does little to improve the Weyrleader’s opinion on him. So he simply watches coolly as Hatskel downs half the ale and doesn’t so much as twitch a grin or smile back. “My mistake then.” Th’ero replies, though not apologetic at all for the lack of distinction between trade and begging. When Hatskel seems to be indifferent towards the lack of fight from the Stonehaven cotholders, the Weyrleader has to take a long and steadying breath as his temper flares for a moment. His frown deepens and his eyes take on a hard look to match the grim set of his mouth as he regards the holdless man with no pity for his lack of remorse. “Of course there was no fight. It was a family. Children and green boys, old men and women.” Th’ero points out, stressing the mention of the children and innocents. “They likely had barely enough food to see them through the winter. Laris has much to answer for, as do you and many of your group.” A pause then, as the Weyrleader shifts to another topic, less things boil out of hand. “Where are Laris and the others now? And how many? Armed and unarmed, ages if you have them.” Cold hard facts, all of it he asks for. Leave the argument of morals and right and wrong for later.

Hatskel eyes Th’ero over the rim of the mug. “They fought back,” he says sharply. “Th’ only children I saw were teens. I didn’t kill them. Don’t know if anyone did. Was snowing. Hard to tell your ass from a hole in the ground that night.” He drains the rest of the ale and sets the mug down with a thump once more. “I can show you on a map,” he grunts. “Our band’s about thirty, and we’ve got children and green boys, old men and women too, dragonrider. Hungry. Starved’ but armed. I can show you where the fightin’ men are. About fifteen of them. Not tellin’ you where the families are. They haven’t done nothin’ but be born into this sorry life of the Holdless.”

“Of course they fought back,” Th’ero replies back just as sharply, “Wouldn’t you if you’re home came under attack? If your daughter was threatened?” The Weyrleader dismisses the rest of the remark of snow and lack of sight, not entirely buying into the excuse. “We found none of the children or teens among the dead stacked in the courtyard and only one was ever found. So where are the others then?” It’s not a direct question, but asked all the same. Th’ero gives only a nod to the offer, knowing full well that Hatskel was going to show them, whether he wanted to or not in the end. The Weyrleader’s expression tightens again, twisting as he fights to hold off his anger. He does not like this interrogation one bit and likely wants to be well away from Hatskel. Nothing he’s said so far has stirred any pity for the man, daughter or not. “We’ve no interests in the families, save for perhaps sending some food or supplies if their plight is as bad as you claim. It’s Laris and those responsible for the slaughter that we want.” Th’ero shifts in his seat then, to lean forwards slightly and level Hatskel with a serious look. “What is Laris like? Would he listen to reason and surrender?”

Hatskel shrugs, “Damend if I know. Laris only took the one woman with us, but she died a few days later.” He pushes the empty mug across the table’s surface, and then barks a sharp laugh. “What do you think?” he asks, leveling Th’ero with a long look. “Laris has been leadin’ this band’o Holdless for turns. Was a good man, once. Desperate men are different, though. He won’t surrender. Nor will the others. All they’ve got is their pride.” He grimaces, pushing the empty ale mug away from him.

Th’ero makes a slightly frustrated noise, but doesn’t press Hatskel further on the women or the location of the missing Stonehaven kin. Time will come for that and likely one of the Holders will wheedle it from him later. The empty mug is ignored, the Weyrleader keeping his focus on the holdless man. At his laugh, Th’ero only presses his lips into a thinner line. “I figured as much.” He admits grimly. “Not even to talk? Surely Laris would not be foolish enough to challenge a Wing of riders and a host of guards. Not with only fifteen men.” Yet Th’ero likely agrees with Hatskel’s statement. Desperate men are different and very much more dangerous.

Hatskel shrugs again. “You could always try, but I doubt it. He’d like as much to kill anyone you sent to talk. An’ if you attacked, he’d just run to another hidin’ spot an’ vanish again.”

Th’ero broods over the information Hatskel gives him, letting silence slip in heavily and charged. “Not likely we’re to attack. Enough blood has been shed.” The Weyrleader intones gravely again, not elaborating further on any plans he may be formulating in his head. Turning slightly to Kimmila, he gestures again to the bluerider. “We need a map.” He tells her, and then glances back to the holdless man, brooding look replaced by one of seriousness. “And some more ale” As much as he doesn’t want too but he figures to humor Hatskel for awhile longer. “You’re to show me where the camps are, as you offered.” Th’ero tells the man, while they wait for the maps and ale. “And you have my word that we will not harass the one with the women and children, but I need to know their location as well.”

Kimmila nods and retreats upstairs once more. Hatskel eyes the Weyrleader suspiciously. “Why?” he asks, chin jerking upwards in protest.

“Why?” Th’ero echoes back and meets Hatskel’s suspicious look with a long one of his own, brows furrowing in a frown as the Weyrleader explains, “Because I don’t want them accidentally found or stumbled upon. There is enough anger over the Stonehaven incident that some may seek blood for blood.” He warns, expression twisting once more. “You claim they are innocent enough and I’ll take your word. But I won’t let them fall to the same misunderstandings as those now dead and buried in Stonehaven.”

Kimmila returns with the map and some ale, once more putting them down beside Th’ero before she takes up her position once more at the foot of the steps. Hatskel eyes her hungrily again, and then reaches out for the ale with that same desire. This is a man starved in more ways than one, as he cradles the mug in his hands. He just grunts at Th’ero’s words as he leans forward and reaches for the map, twisting it to get it orientated correctly.

Again, Th’ero breaks his concentration only to give Kimmila a greateful look and then one of warning to Hatskel for his leering. The Weyrleader waits then in patient silence, his expression settling into one of blank neutrality despite his growing dislike of the man and the way his temper threatens to rise at the continued lack of remorse or guilt from him. He says nothing though as the map is twisted, his eyes following it’s movement and then locking on Hatskel once more.

Hatskel sips his ale this time, and then points a finger. “There’s th’ main camp,” he grunts. “They need shoes.” He turns to eye the Weyrleader for a moment. Then points again. “Here’s th’ second camp. Been tryin’ to scare up some game. Wherries and the like. Gatherin’ too.” He sits back in his chair. “We’re not bad men, dragonrider,” he says, sipping his ale. “Just tryin’ t’ feed our families.” Which he’s done by turning in his companions. It doesn’t sit well with him, and he takes another pull from the mug.

Th’ero leans forwards and tilts his head as he glances to the spot where Hatskel finally points, memorizing it quickly. “Shoes?” he repeats, also looking up from the map to give the holdless man a long and not entirely convinced look. Those will be terms to discuss later. When the second camp is pointed out, Th’ero is back to memorizing the location. He turns brooding again, not pleased over either the entire situation or one detail or another. None of which the Weyrleader goes about sharing. “No, you’re no renegades.” He says with a slight smirk. “But that still does not excuse what happened. Laris and the other men, perhaps yourself even, will face justice.” If they manage to capture him, that is. But Th’ero doesn’t voice his hopes or concerns on that matter. That he reserves for others, but Hatskel has earned neither his trusts or respect.

Hatskel snorts, “I came here to give you information in return for mine and my daughter’s safety. I’ve got nothin’ to answer for, now. Not to you anyway.” He drains his ale and pushes to stand, glancing towards the stairs. Kimmila straightens a bit and eyes him, meeting his gaze with a small smirk.

Th’ero also rises, but makes no move to touch the dagger at his side. Instead, the Weyrleader simply plays along as if he’s only rising from his seat at the end of some normal meeting. “No, not to me.” He says a little too casually and his features take on a hard edge as he fixes Hatskel with another look. “But you do have to answer to the Holders, I’m afraid. I’ve given you and your daughter safety… enough that they won’t tear you apart and drag you to some forsaken cell somewhere and your daughter elsewhere, where you’d never see her again.” Th’ero glances up to the ceiling again and then back down to the holdless man. “So you’ll be remaining here, as will your daughter. As to your fates… that is left to be decided, yet.” Gathering the map and rolling it up, he pauses then to give Hatskel one last look and without much sympathy or hesitation, adds in a voice that grows progressively colder. “If I were you, Hatskel, I’d show some remorse for what was done, even if you feel you and your band were not in the wrong. The men about to charge down on you will not be as sympathetic or as lenient on your plight as I, or as willing to help. As far as they’re concerned, you are all murders and should face punishment as such.” Warning completed, Th’ero turns to walk away, which might be a rather foolish thing to do.

Hatskel’s eyes narrow and harden, his cheeks flushed with the sudden influx of food and then alcohol, which he hasn’t had in a while. Then what Th’ero says filters into his brain and he gives a choked yell. “We had a deal!” he shouts. And no, it might not have been a good idea to turn and walk away, as Hatskel suddenly grabs up a metal fork and lunges for the Weyrleader. Kimmila springs forward, though her dagger remains in its sheath, trying to intercept the man before he can do Th’ero harm.

Both Hatskel’s shout and Kimmila’s sudden movement tip Th’ero off that in his distracted state, he had done such a novice mistake. But the Weyrleader is not about to allow the holdless man the pleasure of stabbing him so easily with a fork or allow Kimmila to be in harms way. Twisting himself around, he moves with the speed of one trained for such attacks and aims to block Hatskel’s attack with his arm and deflect the fork away from him if he can. If it works, Th’ero will then charge forwards in an attempt not only to pin and twist the man’s arm, either so he can no longer move it or until the weapon is dropped as he pushes Hatskel forcibly back towards the table. The second he gets a chance, Th’ero unsheathes his blade and if not intercepted or blocked, aims to hold the dagger’s edge up to the man’s throat. “Not a smart move, Hatskel.” He growls, letting his anger show through in his scowl as he looms over the man. Above, there’s a roar from Velokraeth and the sounds of many boots running across the floor, followed by a fist pounding on the door as the guards react. And maybe, just maybe, the plaintive cry of a child calling for her father.

Hatskel is no trained fighter, and nor is he in any state to be doing such things. Weak but furious, he drops the fork with a grunt as his arm is pinned and the blade is at his throat. He’s shaking from the exertion, breath trembling as he snarls angrily. “Fuck you,” he hisses. “We had a deal.” He does hold still though, eyes closing tightly when he hears Laurali’s cry over the sounds of booted feet and roaring dragons. Kimmila shouts for the guards to come in and the doors are thrown wide, the two posted guards hurrying down the stairs while Kimm stands back. She’s no trained fighter. But she does give them an ‘I told you so’ look. “I told you what you wanted to know,” Hatskel protests. “For our safety and freedom.”

Th’ero gets no joy in having to pin the man down and hold a blade to this throat, even one as weakened as Hatskel and deserving of it. “You have your safety. Be thankful for that and be thankful I’m willing to oversee this feeble attempt.” The Weyrleader snaps back, pulling the blade away from the man’s throat and sheathing it and then letting him go, but steps back cautiously all the same as the guards come storming down the stairs. “Bind him to the chair and his hands. Clear these dishes too. He’s now to be under guard at all times.” He orders the guards in a hard voice, anger lacing his words. “The girl is to be housed upstairs from now on. Minimal visits.” Harsh is the punishment, yet still possibly the lightest Hatskel has yet to face. Locking his eyes back on the man as the guards move forwards to their task, Th’ero’s expression is cold and unsympathetic, though truthfully inside his thoughts roil in conflict and the Weyrleader is likely seething. “You’re a fool, Hatskel. You may have had your freedom, but not now. Consider my warning and perhaps, /perhaps/ I can convince the Holders to give you some leniency. So much as try what you just attempted against any of them, the guards or another rider however and I’ll personally drop you on some unforgiving, miserable island. Are we clear?” All while he speaks, his tone remains level, his voice never rising but carrying such an unsettling calmness and hardness to it.

Hatskel glares at Th’ero with open hatred, though he doesn’t fight it as the guards sit him down and tie him to the chair. His eyes flick upwards and then back to Th’ero, and he still remains silent.

Th’ero is not oblivious to the open hatred Hatskel glares towards him and that is all the signal the Weyrleader needs. “We’re done here. Stay with him, until otherwise relieved.” He tells the guards and then turns for the stairs. As he approaches Kimmila, he gives her subtle nod and a look that asks for the bluerider to follow him. The moment he appears at the top of the stairs, Yarisa descends on him, anger clear in her expression and the taut lines of her posture. “What is the meaning of this? What happened? Why is the girl upstairs, I didn’t sanction that order. Where are the…” But Th’ero is in no mood to listen to the lieutenant and dismisses her with a curt gesture that does nothing to smooth the tension already building between the two. Furious, Yarisa turns then to get the report from the guards still posted down in the cellar. Ignoring the glances from the other guards and perhaps a few Wingriders, Th’ero strides uninterrupted out the door and out to the fields surrounding the tavern.

Kimmila just glowers at the clueless Yarisa as she follows Th’ero outside and into the fields. She holds her silence, walking with him until he speaks up.

They manage to get to the edge of the field before a shadow suddenly drifts over them and Velokraeth lands with just enough space to avoid both Th’ero and Kimmila. As it is, his wings stir up the dirt and dead grasses and if that wasn’t insult enough, the pale bronze lowers his oversized head down to level with both riders and stops them from progressing any further, though his anger and concern seems mostly focused on Th’ero. Growling, Velokraeth’s eyes whirl red and yellow and his whole body trembles slightly from tension. The Weyrleader holds his hands up and grimacing, goes about the task of placating his rather upset lifemate. It takes only a few short moments before Velokraeth snorts, reassured enough to back off at least a few inches and from the scowl Th’ero suddenly sports, the pale bronze is likely chiding him for his faults. “Damn it all,” he growls, lifting his hands up to scrub wearily at his face, anger still clear as day in his features but not threatening to erupt so violently. Stepping closer to Kimmila’s side, he immediately seeks the reassurance of the bluerider’s presence. “So we are dealing with holdless. Lead by desperate and possibly a delusional and unreasonable leader.” Frustration laces his voice then and his hands clench into fists, as the sudden impact of all that just happened hits him. “Sharding bastard tried to stab me!” Th’ero exclaims with a sharp snort.

Kimmila leans back and takes a few steps away from Velokraeth’s landing, lifting a hand to shield her eyes from the dust he churns up. She is quiet until Velokraeth moves away, and when Th’ero approaches she lifts a hand to rest it lightly against his arm. Her eyes narrow, sparking with anger. “He did,” she says quietly. Though Th’ero /did/ turn his back on him. She doesn’t mention that though. “He seemed a bit delusional himself.”

“Delusional?” Th’ero all but spits the word, his anger flaring for a moment before he can steel himself against it. “He was lacking any remorse or guilt for what he’d done. I had half the mind to tell him he spoke more like a renegade then a holdless man. Desperate or not.” Kimmila’s touch calms him a little, but not enough to stem the worst of his rantings, which he does in a low and harsh voice. “I was not expecting women and children to be drawn into this. Something has to be done about them, as well as this Laris and his men. The Holders are likely to be arriving shortly to question Hatskel. Undoubtedbly there will be a meeting then and I already know some will be shouting for blood. And where does the Weyr fit in all this? Shards, it’s a mess.” Th’ero forces himself to unclench his hands then, pent up anger, frustration and tension causing them to shake a little, which only fuels his darkening mood. With a sigh that is more a growl, the Weyrleader looks upwards, of all things, scowling. “I need to get away from here. Dtirae and the others can handle the Holders and Captain Breshir will likely take over. Nothing more can be done, until Hatskel has been questioned by all.” Th’ero mutters and then turns his glance down to Kimmila as he reaches out to firmly grip both her arms. “Come with me?” he asks in a gentler tone, even as Velokraeth rises to his feet and with no protest for once.

Kimmila shakes her head, “I thought he was more focused on betraying his friends than the crime they’d committed,” she admits. Her head shakes slowly. “The weyr is here to lead, and to keep the peace. The Harpers can decide what’s to be done, in fair trials. That’s not your decision. The weyr is doing what it needs to do.” Looking down at his shaking hands, she frowns slightly. Green eyes lift when he grips her arms, and she nods. “Of course,” she replies. “Where?” Does she need to call Varmiroth?

Th’ero’s expression twists when Kimmila speaks her opinions and for a moment, the Weyrleader looks ready to challenge her, stubborn until the last. Instead, he bites his tongue and with another growl and frustrated sigh, speaks in a low voice. “Anywhere. I don’t care, but it has to be anywhere but here right now.” He reluctantly admits. It would seem that she does need to call Varmiroth, as Th’ero lets his hold on her slip away while he turns back to Velokraeth. Gathering the sacks he had removed earlier, he secures them to the straps and reclaims his flight helmet. Without another word, the Weyrleader mounts up and waiting only until Kimmila has either joined him or called Varmiroth, has his bronze take flight. He doesn’t Between however and instead Velokraeth soars high up into the skies before veering sharply north.

Kimmila just nods, and when Varmiroth touches down the bludrider dons her helmet and gloves and climbs up, buckling in right before the blue soars after the bronze. Winging along just behind and to the right of the larger dragon, Varmiroth eases the strain of a potentially long flight by riding in the bronze’s windstream.

'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.