From Bark to Bodies

~~*~~ Fort Weyr - Tunnel ~~*~~
This tunnel has a gentle upward slope that leads the way in or out of the weyr. The smooth walls are softly illuminated by the lights strung overhead, and the stone has been etched with images of tithe trains, dragons, riders, and weyrfolk who almost seem to be moving along with you through the tunnel. The tunnel beings to widen up ahead, echoing voices and pleasant laughter.


The afternoon is thankfully bright, even if it is cold and the ground beyond the tunnel is wet and muddy, churned up by so many passing through. There's a small crowd gathering, each little group separating off into to be with their own kind; a handful of guards stand stiffly to one side, a knot of riders talk in hushed voices, kitchenfolk mingle with other men and women from the lower caverns, chatting animatedly in voices that echo around the walls of the tunnel. Most folks there have a basket in their hands, which are being handed out by an enthusiastic cook to anyone who will take them. As the group begins to grow further, the woman handing out the baskets - a cook called Lila - claps her hands, calling all attention to herself. "Alright, folks! Let's give it 5 minutes more before we move out! Everyone make sure you have a basket!"

With a basket in hand already, Amethyst is leaning quietly against the wall of the tunnel in the midst of a group of candidates, idly toying with the beaded bracelets she wears around her wrists. They're pushed back and forth, nudged around, in between her looking up and at the group that's gathering - especially over at the guards. When Lila calls them all to attention she straightens up, looks a little more lively, and tweaks at the scarf around her neck for the sake of doing something with her hands.

Guards, riders, kitchenfolk..and even candidates! Ravyal is certainly there with his basket, holding it a bit uselessly against his chest for the time being. At least he's bundled up against the colder weather though, despite eyeing that muddy trail quite warily. He perks when Lila calls out, standing up on his toes to get a look..only to have to wait /five/ more minutes. He shakes his head just a bit, rocking back on his heels before he shuffles around a few other candidates, moving to stand alongside Amethyst with a small smile. "Have you done this before?"

Therynn is one of the later in the group to arrive, having spent most of the night awake and doing runner-sweeps around the perimeter of the Weyr. She's left the stallion tied up nearby, jogging towards the guards to relay and receive information. She's only there for a moment, departing as quickly as she came, head nods to those she recognizes in passing.

The Senior Weyrwoman has left Kayeth for a little while, the fiery queen probably having forced her lifemate off the Sands to go /do/ something and explore, and just get out. So Nyalle is here, dressed in a winter dress with a cloak over it, sturdy gloves on her hands and a basket over one arm.

When there's harvesting to do, Fort does it in style! Paranoid style, that is. Given the boogeymen that supposedly still roam it, can it be blamed that there are Guards to shadow this group out? Never mind the crowds from the Games and the constant traffic. Security is the key! And having specifically volunteered for today, Mr'az is there to wait on the group to assemble. The middle aged bronzerider is a relatively new transfer to Fort Weyr and a Wingrider from Thunderbird's S&R division. He has no basket, but he does have his gear with him. Zhirazoth is no doubt perched on some high ledge somewhere, straps on and readied — just in case. He'll offer a smile to Amethyst and Ravyal and some of the others who have assembled but it's Nyalle's arrival who earns the warmer and broader smile mixed in with surprise. "Afternoon, Weyrwoman! Kayeth is well?" And has set her free?

"Never," Amethyst whispers to Ravyal, giving the younger candidate a wink. "Stick by me?" Whatever else she may have been able to say is cut short, as Lila's voice booms out throughout the tunnel: "Time to go, boys and girls! Now remember, we're looking for edibles - bark, hips, roots, nuts, if you can find them at this time. If you don't know what it is and you're not sure if it's edible, ask! No point gathering baskets full of things that'll poison us all now, is it?" She tuts and rolls her eyes, brandishing her basket at everyone - Weyrwoman included. "We'll point out things that're good along the way. Now then. March!" And off she goes, leading the way!


Fort's Forests ~~ Fort Weyr - Blueberry Barrens

There are some places that seem to defy all conventional understanding: the blueberry barrens might be one such place. It's a vast field of blueberry bushes that pushes the forest back as far as the eye can see, broken only by the improbable existence of a hill in the middle of it all that bears a single, strange tree. The rest is a sea of lush green foliage and branches, of blue fruits and a narrow warren of paths that changes every couple of turns or so. The air is alive with the sights, sounds and smells of nature at its finest, from the bejeweled trundlebugs making their rounds and the sing-song calls of unseen avians to the sweet aroma of berries.

Mid-spring heralds the onset of harvesting season and, with it, the arrival of avians, wherries, and other wildlife. In fall, after the last of the berries has been harvested, the barrens are rife with wildfire-bright foliage, the blueberry bushes taking on a lurid red-yellow-orange coloration that lingers until the onset of winter. It is, in all, a place of restoration and renewal, where one might seek a snack and a place to relax; indeed, the gentle whispering of a creek can be heard from time to time, although finding it might be an adventure in and of itself.


Ravyal smiles slowly, but nods, even as he straightens up when Lila begins calling. "I..I have before. Just a little..though..back in Lemos." What people are looking for in Fort might be totally different plants! Still, the candidate doesn't look like he's willing to stray too far from Amethyst's side. The passing of a rider gets a bit of a peek, before he remembers that there are /proprieties/ to follow, and he even manages a salute for the man. It's somewhat jumbled with the holding of his basket..but it's there. When things get underway, he moves on though, being careful on the muddier portion of the path.

Nyalle looks relieved to see the guards and Mr'az especially, moving closer to the bronzerider. "She is, yes, and insisted I come out for a bit. I didn't know you'd be here." Lila's shouting has Nyalle looking up and paying attention - Senior or no, this is Lila's trip, and she nods, giving a curious look to the trees. Then she looks around at the Guards, and then the Candidates. "Do you think there will be trouble?" she asks, her voice soft as she studies Amethyst and Ravyal for a long moment, protective and mother-hen like. She moves forward with the rest of them, though sticks close to Mr'az for now.

The walk is a muddy one, though not too unpleasant beyond that. The group's destination, after weaving through the forest, is the Blueberry Barrens - not that there's many blueberries to be found at the present time. There are, however, other things, which Lila is all too happy to point out (loudly) to the group, separating folks off into smaller groups to go in gather what they're told. One little group, including a guard, candidates and a few riders, is ushered to the edge of the blueberry bushes to where the trees grow, where they can start stripping bark from the icy trunks.

Linking her arm with Ravyal's, Amethyst grins reassuringly down at him and gives him a little squeeze against her side. "Then we'll learn it together, won't we?" She goes where they're ushered, towards the trees, and shakes her head at the Weyrwoman in response to her question. "I don't know, ma'am, but I hope not… maybe they're just here to look for clues?" The guard in their group - a middle-aged man, red-faced and a little paunchy, is not carrying a basket, nor does he look interested in gathering anything as he stares off into the trees, seemingly ignoring the people he's been lumped in with.

"Outing into the forests, Candidates… How would I not be here?" Mr'az teases Nyalle, though he's careful to keep his voice lowered so not everyone hears him poking fun at the Weyrwoman. Though he'll likely be scolded by her anyways. As Lila calls out, the bronzerider chuckles and he keeps a sharp eye on Amethyst and Ravyal, as well as the others. "We better not poison anyone. Shards and shells, Th'ero would have our hides…" Mr'az mutters under his breath and he grins a little. That might be meant to be overheard. "Don't think so. Ustrr's band is reported to be far, far north of here. The barrens are… still close enough to the Weyr that he'd be a fool to come this close." he assures to Nyalle, smiling as Amethyst adds her own reassurances as they're all ushered to the edge of the bushes. He's not here to harvest, only to keep watch and so with a crooked smile, he gestures for Nyalle to step forwards. Have at it, Weyrwoman? "Hopefully Kayeth will be pleased enough with this outing."

Bushes! Poor, barren winter bushes. Ravyal looks a little startled at being dragged up against Amethyst, but looks happy enough about it after a moment or two. Hey, there's safety in numbers, even when stuck to another person's side! There's a quick glance back at the riders in the party though, as well as the guards standing about as they're ushered off to the edge of the bushes where the trees begin. Only to be instructed to collect..bark! "Well..this isn't so hard. I mean..I know what bark looks like.." He pries a piece of it off the tree before him, tossing Amethyst a satisfied smile. Though, after a moment he peeks around the other candidate toward that middle-aged guard, lips pressing together slightly. "He doesn't look like he's real happy about this, huh?"

Nyalle doesn't look too pleased about the mud, but she doesn't verbally protest it, beyond using Mr'az's arm a few times to help her through some of the more slippery, sticky spots. "Bark?" she asks quietly, not loud enough for Lila's ears to hear as she looks thoughtfully at the trees. "What sorts of clues?" she asks Amethyst, smiling a bit at the sight of the Candidates arm in arm. How cute. To Mr'az, the Senior giggles softly. "You're a good man, Mr'az," she says, soft but fond. "I'm sure she will be. She's just happy I'm out."

"His name's Braln," Amethyst supplies Ravyal, looking over her shoulder at the guard, who's walked further off by now. She takes out her beltknife to loosen up a piece of bark, jumping back with a yelp when a flurry of bugs scurry away from their exposed nesting spot. "Gross." She's flicking one of them off her glove when Nyalle asks her question. "Well, ma'am, did you hear the runner that got taken came back on its own? The guards reckon that means whoever did it is still out here, so they've been looking for whatever they can find -"

"- 'cept we ain't looked this close yet," Braln interrupts, suddenly beside the goldrider. He crouches by her feet, poking his knife in between the tree roots. A bit of digging reveals… a piece of leather? The man holds it up, examining the mucky strip with a frown. Running his thumb over it reveals little holes punched through at regular intervals… like a belt, perhaps? "Oi," Mr'az, he's talking to you! "What'sat look like to you?"

Mr'az will peer sidelong to the middle-aged guard too when he over hears Amethyst mentioning clues and Ravyal's comment on the Guard's mood. "Probably because he's pulled extra shifts," the bronzerider mutters low for the Candidates overhear but not necessarily the Guard. No need to antagonize them quite yet! "Don't know about the clues either. Wingleader Abigail likely has her Policing riders and the Guards attached to that division on it. Those that aren't slated to go north." For that other hunt. Mr'az doesn't mind it when Nyalle uses his arm, helping the Weyrwoman through the mud or slippery ice and lingering snow. "Won't stripping these trees of their bark hurt them?" Mr'az goes on to mutter out loud, only to smile crookedly for Nyalle's praise. "As you often remind me, Weyrwoman." Now the Guard is interrupting Amethyst, which earns a frown from Mr'az as he'd been interested in what the Candidate had to say. Before he has a chance to answer though, he has that leather foisted in his direction. "A bit of muddy leather?" he answers dryly, only to give the Guard a narrowed look before taking the clue in hand. Carefully. "… belt, of some sort, I'd say? Hasn't been out here long, else I'd say it's remnants of the previous harvests…"

Ravyal nearly jumps out of his skin when Amethyst yelps, lurching back away from the tree a good two feet. Thankfully, at least, he doesn't drop the basket. "What? What is…oh." Bugs. Apparently those are far more tolerable than whatever /other/ horrors the candidate might have been imagining. There's a nervous look sent back and forth when Amethyst and Nyalle discuss the runner and escaped person,chewing on his lower lip. And then that guard is back, and finding bits of leather to wave about. The teenager's brows slowly lift upward. "Th..that could have come from anywhere though..right?"

Nyalle mouths Braln, trying to commit the name to memory. Always good to know who your Guards are, and Nyalle knows she's certainly helpless out here, with little to no skill in self-defense. The bugs have her wrinkling her nose, but she reaches out just the same to tug off some bark, before giving Mr'az a thoughtful look. "I certainly hope it doesn't…" She is /very/ quick to step aside when Braln crouches down by her feet, her free hand yanking her skirts out of the way and stepping back to Mr'az, eying the guard for a long moment before attention shifts to the bit of leather. "Part of a satchel perhaps?" Then she looks at Amethyst, nodding her head slightly. "Yes, I did hear that…" And she looks around at the surrounding trees.

"Belt. Huh." It's a possibility that Braln considers, as he examines the leather more closely. "Coulda come from anywhere, right," he echoes Ravyal as a reply to the young candidate's question, shrugging his broad shoulders. "Satchel? Huh." 'Huh' would seem to be his favourite word, as the guard repeats it, then turns away from the little group to step further into the trees, toe-poking at the muck around their roots and fiddling with the piece of leather as he mutters, too quietly to be clear.

Amethyst simply blinks at the guard, looking from him to Ravyal, then to the Weyrwoman and Mr'az. "Perhaps it is because he's been working longer hours," she says to the latter, with a sympathetic smile. "As I was saying, ma'am, the runner came back, as you said you'd heard, so the guards think the person who did it might be out here after taking a tumble, but they've been concentrating further out, closer to the road where the earring was found, since that's the biggest clue so far. Though… maybe Braln's just found something? Of course, Rav could be right… leather's leather. Who's to know where it came from?" She looks at the young candidate, shrugging her shoulders.

"Could be…" Mr'az agrees with Nyalle, only to glance back to Ravyal. "He's got a point too. Could be from anything and possibly not even for human. Harness belt is possible. Leather is used in so many ways…" He'll hand the piece of muddied leather back to Braln, leaving it to the Guard to handle the evidence. Amethyst is given a shrewd look for the amount of information she seems to have, his gaze lingering on her a moment before he calls his mind to task. "You three continue with your harvesting. Seeing as I've no basket, I'll just step around this tree and see if there isn't more to this belt. Probably is just some discarded harness or satchel…" Says the ever optimistic bronzerider…

Ravyal continues to look slightly uneasy about the entire mess. He picks through the bark pieces in his basket though while everyone talks about the leather strip, looking from it and then back around again. He tilts his head though, leaning to watch the guard head back to the trees..and then Mr'az as he states his intent to poke around as well. He doesn't seem /as/ keen to step too close to the tree anymore though. Instead he gives another curious look toward Amethyst, peering at his fellow candidate in slight awe. "You know a lot about it.."

Nyalle shrugs slightly as she selects another bit of bark, watching as Mr'az moves around the tree. "Be careful," she says, her voice soft enough that it's likely only he can hear her. "Just because it's a bit of leather doesn't mean it belongs to the missing thief." She also looks at Amethyst for all that she knows. "I guess because it was your jewelry that was stolen?" Well, hers by lending, sort of.

Amethyst nods at Ravyal, then at Nyalle for hitting the nail on the head. "Master Tashryn's still in Ruatha, so the guards are keeping me up to date so I can keep her up to date on what's happening. I'm being a sort of go-between, at the moment." She shrugs, tugging off another piece of bark to add it to the pile in her basket. There's no yelping when bugs scurry about this time - she just flicks them calmly away. "I think the Weyrwoman's right, though," she says to her fellow candidate, though Nyalle is clearly included in the comment, too. "Leather could be anything."

It could be anything, but it's leading to something that's exciting Braln. "Oi!" He hollers over his shoulder at Mr'az, beckoning the man towards him. "Here." Down he crouches again, this time slipping his beltknife into the shoulderstrap of a satchel - a satchel with one strap broken, which matches the leather piece found already. The discovery's tossed at the bronzerider, while Braln keeps on moving, into thicker forest. "Look inside. See what it is."

"I'll be fine," Mr'az assures Nyalle, offering her a quick smile from over his shoulder. "Keep an eye on these two, will you? Make sure they don't get into any mischief," he teases, giving both Ravyal and Amethyst a quick look as well. Off he goes, stepping around the tree to do his own poking about only to look up when the Guard hollers at him. Frowning, the bronzerider approaches, only to grunt as the satchel is tossed at him. Catching it, he'll shoot Braln another narrowed look. Really? Couldn't have just passed it? Walking back a bit towards the bushes where he's left Nyalle and the two Candidates, Mr'az inspects the satchel and then cautiously opens it to peer at the contents. "… not much in here…" he mutters. "Travel rations by the looks of it and… hello. What's this?" The satchel will be lowered to the ground, as Mr'az is far more interested in the folded map in his hand. One of Fort's forests, with a route marked out from the Weyr, along the road and then through the trees to the river. "Braln? You find anything?" Because if he hasn't…

Ravyal nods slowly. There's even a small smile after Nyalle and Amethyst both agree. Of course it could be anything other than leather from /thieves/. He even inches back over to the tree to get back to work. "Y..yeah. That's right. I mean..people drop stuff all the time and—oh, hey.." The candidate trails off again during his bark-picking endeavor, fingers coming across a hole in the truck itself. There may even be something sticking out of it. Frowning, he pulls, tugging a bit harder as stiff, reddish brown cloth comes out. A good large wad of it, in fact. There's a slight frown though, before the weaver seems to realize something, eyes growing wider. "U..uhm…is this..is this /blood/?" It seems to be quite saturated with it, that brownish red color left by getting a good soaking in it.

Nyalle nods slightly at Amethyst, with a little smile for getting it right. She flinches when Braln tosses the satchel to Mr'az, but then she's giving it a curious glance, looking back to Amethyst and Ravyal afterwards. "We should get more bark," she says quietly, almost sheepishly. She doesn't want to be in the group that doesn't do what they're supposed to do! She smiles warmly at Ravyal when he goes back to work. Good job, you get a gold star. Until… She squeaks at the sight of it, a hand covering her mouth as she steps back away from the trunk, stumbling against another tree, her foot hitting something and knocking it free…

"'s'nothing to find," Braln replies grumpily to Mr'az, annoyed, perhaps, that he handed the bag over rather than looking into it himself. The guard stomps back to the bronzerider's side, peering down at the map in his hand. "Huh." There's that word again. He stabs a grubby finger onto the hide, tracing the path - which doesn't go quite to where they are now, but the end? "The river. Musta been going to the river." He looks in that direction, as if he might be able to actually see it, then he frowns at Ravyal for disturbing his thinking. Blood, though? That gets what's running through his veins pumping. The guard jumps to action, snatching the clotch from under the candidate's nose and examining it. "Blood," he confirms, flicking it out to reveal the scarf. "Could be our guy," he says, looking at Mr'az after giving the Weyrwoman what can only be described as a dirty look, for her squeal-reaction. What she kicks free, though? That grabs his attention. "You!" He points at Amethyst. "Get that."

What's going on? So much happening! Amethyst looks wide-eyed from the map, to the bloodied scarf, to the Weyrwoman, who she fixes with a comforting look as she steps towards her. "It's alright, ma'am, it's just an old scarf, won't hurt you." She nods, hopefully reassuringly, as she sets her basket down on the ground to pick up the object the goldrider knocked free. "It's a… flask, sir," she calls to Braln, holding it up for Nyalle and everyone else to see. The cork's missing and she lifts it to her nose to sniff whatever might have been inside. "Smells like… spirits? Empty now, though…" She upends it, to prove as much. Then she straightens up, lowering her voice to speak to the woman beside her. "Are you alright, Weyrwoman Nyalle?"

Blood? Bad things happening? Thankfully, Hazelon is more than a little bit not at all knowledgable about these things. If he was, he might actually find just another place to be. But as his group has disbanded wieh one of their members fell unexpectedly ill- their members then scattering to join other groups. Hazelon had drawn the short straw and ended up… here? He'll pause at the edge of the group, ghost that he is just… watching.

Mr'az makes a low, displeased sound in his throat. "Not that we're sure this belongs to our thief. Just as it's anyone's satchel, it could be anyone's map…" he surmises, only to swear under his breath when Braln jumps into action. Tucking the map hastily into his jacket's inner pocket, the bronzerider will follow. "Blood!" he exclaims and then frowns heavily, jaw working silently as Braln presumes again. "Could be anything…" he begins to say, only to blink as Amethyst finds the flask. Alcohol? "Or a drunken fool." Mr'az mutters. "We've the Games going on. Could be someone got into their cups…" Lovely. The bronzerider sighs. "Where was the scarf found? And the flask?" he asks, glancing back to Ravyal and Amyethyst. To Nyalle, his gaze turns concerned and his voice softens. "Are you alright, Weyrwoman?" He doesn't even notice he's echoed Amethyst in his concern, but his eyes DO spot Hazelon. "You there! Do you see anything amiss?"

Ravyal is left holding a very bloody rag. Scarf? Whatever it is, the candidate doesn't seem to like it at all, and when Amethyst rushes to tend to Nyalle, the teen /drops/. Thankfully it's not an unconscious drop, but there's a definite bit of quick sitting down while the bloody material is snatched up by the guard. He's going to have to burn his gloves. Or something. When Mr'az starts questioning the scarf's location, he does reach up, pointing at the hole in the tree he'd pried it out of. "I..in there. It was stuffed in there.." Alas, when the boy's eyes travel down a ways, they remain fixed on the tree, and the darker smears across the lower part of the trunk. "There's…more.." Handprints? Could be. He gives a slight shudder for all of it, wrinkling his nose just a bit. "T..that's a lot of blood for just a drunken..accident.."

Nyalle is blushing crimson now, shrinking back from the Guard's dirty look. Can't she be startled? Amethyst's comforting only makes Nyalle blush all the more, dipping her head and smoothing her skirts. She takes a few more steps back, away from the trees, wrapping her arms around herself. "I know it won't hurt me," she murmurs to Amethyst, almost absently. Looking around, she spots Hazelon, and she jumps. "Oh!" Nervous laughter. "Hi. Hello. Hazelon. Welcome…to…bark gathering?" Looking back to Mr'az, Nyalle blushes again and only nods. "I'm fine," she murmurs. Her concern is for Ravyal then, the goldrider moving forward to hold out her hand to him. "Here, let's get away from that," she says quietly, barely glancing at the trunk. Away, please?

Hazelon's eyes cross the scene slowly, his eyes coming to rest upon the bloody scarf, then moving on. He'll drift closer, and crouch down by the edge of the tree to look at the blood that the outspoken ex-weaver has pointed out upon the trunk. Thoughout this he doesn't answer the guard's question, keeping his thoughts to himself. "Ma'am." to Nyalle, and then places a hand next to the bloody stain. Finally, "A fire mayhap. Back there." And he gestures back along the path that he had taken to join the goup.

When Ravyal drops, Amethyst is of the same line of thinking as Nyalle, bounding back to his side to fuss while the goldrider holds out her hand to him. "There are handprints - good timing, Hazelon!" Because she's seen him, of course! And she gives him a quick look, before squinting back at the smear-marks that could very easily be fingers. "Braln! Look!" There's another tree with similar marks, that she points to, just a metre or so away. "Sir!" To Mr'az, "have you heard of anyone going missing who was at the Games? Anyone who didn't get back home?"

Braln's right there, ready to elbow people out of the way if they're crowing his evidence. Like a bloodhound with a scent, he's on a mission and no-one, not even a Weyrwoman, will stop him! The guard peers at the prints, then, at Hazelon's suggestion that there might have been a fire, he nods. "Got ourselves something," he mutters, hot-stepping it to the next tree with the handprints on… and then to another, after that. "Trail?" Looking back over his shoulder, he beckons for the others to follow. "Hands pointing this way," he holds his own up, hovering it over where the finger-smears are on the nearest trunk, "guy's walking - staggering - that way." He points ahead, roughly in the direction of the distant creek. "You coming?"

"You'd be surprised how much a man can bleed from the simplest of wounds," Mr'az drawls grimly, only to realize that that is likely NOT going to help Ravyal. He'll wince when the Candidate drops down to a hasty seated position and promptly slips the waterskin he'd been carrying and offering it to the ex-Weaver. "Here. Drink it slow. It's just water, but it'll do you some good. Deep breaths." And don't look at the blood. Maybe that's why the bronzerider stands conveniently in his line of sight? "Mhm. Odd that it was stuffed…" Mr'az mutters, glancing again to Nyalle with a lingering look. She's certain she's okay? He won't pry, but his attention is soon drawn to Hazelon, Amethyst and Braln. "Hand prints?" Mr'az won't have time to mull over it. The Guard is charging ahead and he can barely answer Amethyst's prompts. "Not that I am aware of. I could have Zhirazoth bespeak Niumdreoth if needed…" But he's moving away then, giving Nyalle a quick look as he unsheathes one of the daggers at his hip. "I am!" Mr'az calls back to Braln, takes a few steps, pauses and then thinks of unfastening the other knives he carries. Mostly utility blades, but they're sharp and they'll do damage if stabbed. They're handed over, still sheathed to… Hazelon. "Here. Give 'em to the others too or whoever will take it. Doubt you'll need 'em but better than leaving you lot entirely defenceless." Then he's hurrying after Braln.

Ravyal is certainly better when not gawking at the blood. He turns his gaze up onto Nyalle instead when she appears there, taking hold of that hand to pull himself up again. "Yes ma'am.. Thank you." /Away/ from all of that mess is the best place to be, after all. At least he's not /wobbly/ when he gets back up. His legs work just fine, taking him a few paces away while watching Amethyst and Hazelon. Where did he come from? He keeps his distance from the bloody prints though, looking terribly grateful for the water skin. He sips at it, taking a few small gulps, although there is a pause when others begin to study and even follow that trail, chewing on his lower lip uncertainly. "..Are we really..?"

Nyalle's eyes widen at Mr'az giving Hazelon knives. Not because it's Hazelon, but because there's /knives/ being handed out. "Do you really think that's necessary?" the Weyrwoman whispers, taking another step away from the trees once Ravyal is on his feet. "I'm not!"

Hazelon had risen from his crouch and turned, not at all seemingly bothered by the blood he has found smeared around. He listens, nodding in agreement when Mr'az speaks of the amount a person can bleed. His hands move to his pockets… only to come back out when that set of knives are handed over….. to him? Confusion is deep in those dark eyes, but he'll take them. One is stuck in to his belt, another kep in his hand. The third… he'll look around at the people around him. The weyrwoman? No. The weaver? Oh hell no, but perhaps the jeweler-candidate? Mutely, Hazelon will offer out the knife to her. Will she take it?

Amethyst looks torn; she looks at Mr'az following Braln, then back to Nyalle and Ravyal, whose hair she gently strokes back from his face. "Drink some more water, you look pale." Then she's biting on her lip, looking again in the direction that the two men are headed - and at Hazelon, who's now got knives! "You don't think there's… there can't be anyone dangerous, can there?" Someone that would require them to defend themselves? "I'll be back! I'm going with them!" The knife offered by Hazelon is eyed, teeth sunk hesitantly into her bottom lip before she nods at him and takes it, turning tail to joh after Mr'az and Braln.

The guard is leading the way, zig-zagging from tree to tree, pointing out handprints to Mr'az, and occasionally far bigger smears, as if someone's fallen against the tree, maybe even slipped here or there. "There!" He points, to where there's a scrap of fabric hanging from a broken lower branch, with red staining the old snow that's been sheltered by the tree's trunk. "Blood." He looks up, frowning at the approaching candidate, but otherwise ignoring her as he looks at Mr'az. "Can't be far. Can't bleed this much and get far, whoever it is… You see anything?"

With the way word can spread worse than wildfire, Skyler has heard about the bloody scarf and at the first opportunity takes the chance to head over towards the excitement. And oh look, even better knives! "Hey! Do I get one?" he asks in an excited voice. Do you think we'll find a dead body?" Morbid? Nah, just the idiocy of youth. After all it's exciting. At least for the moment. "Ooo, is it renegades? Will we see some? Will there be a fight?" Several moments of silence "Is that really blooooood?" he asks, drawing out the word.

There's a lady running this whole hike dealio, and she's seen that there's people deviating from their assigned tasks! Cook Lila trundles over to the group by the bloodied trees, approaching with a stomp in her step and planting her hands on her hips as she gets there, just in time to hear Skyler saying 'bloooooood'. "Weyrwoman Nyalle," she says, recognising the woman beside Ravyal, who she squints disapprovingly at since he's clearly doing no gathering. Hazelon's knives earn another dark look. "What is going on? Is someone hurt? Why are people," Skylers in particular, "talking about blood?"

Mr'az will have to explain (or apologize) to Nyalle later but for now he's running off after Braln and so focused is he on following the Guard that he doesn't catch Amethyst tailing him. Not until it's too late and he's crouching down to peer at the next clue. His expression is grim and dark and now even he's no longer protesting the thought that they won't be finding something. What he doesn't say if this 'person' will be alive or… worse. "What're you doing here, Candidate?" he will say, peering at Amethyst. "This is no place for you, lass. You should be back with the others and the Weyrwoman." And it's a good thing Mr'az wasn't nearby to hear Skyler's comments! The bronzerider would be hard pressed not to smack some sense into the youth. Renegades! No renegades here… just north of the Weyr. Shaking his head, Mr'az will look back to Braln, then to Amethyst but he can waste no time in trying to argue with her to head back if she hasn't turned back already. "I don't see anything. Not from here but…" He's going to investigate! With caution.

Ravyal sure doesn't seem too keen on following along with the group. He hangs back in fact, looking quite relieved that Nyalle herself doesn't intend to go. See? He can stay here and…guard..the Weyrwoman! Or at least try not to puke on her shoes. He peers at Amethyst though, eyes just a bit wide. There's light hair brushing. And an exchange of knives. "You're /going/?" The candidate can only gawk and fidget in place, casting a quick look at Nyalle again. "I..I'll stay with you. I'm not sure we should really..split up and.." He trails off as Skyler begins to fire off questions, staring at the younger boy. "..No there's not going to be a fight! Or dead…bodies.." He promptly takes another drink of that water. Just in case. Though he shrinks a little under Lila's glare when the woman comes up on them. "We…we found some things..by the trees. Blood on them.."

Nyalle will stay back, thankyouverymuch, with Ravyal…if he doesn't bolt after the others. She's about to order Amethyst back too, when… "Skyler," the Weyrwoman says with a frown. "Come back here. They're not going to find a body. Or renegades. We're far too close to the weyr for any of that." Right? She jumps though when Lila walks up to her, whirling with a startled look. "No! No blood! Nothing here, no." Great. Lie. And Nyalle is /awful/ at it. Especially when Ravyal tells the truth, and she gives him a look. "We're gathering bark." Look, see? She holds up her basket and her…one piece of bark. Sigh. She /is/ Senior, right?

Hazelon isn't about to hand the kid that just wandered in a knife. He's not that stupid. The look he casts at the kid is unreadable, and he'll step aside. Not to follow the guards and the woman, but to just be out of the center of the group. Watching. Waiting. Watching the trees. His mind has gone where the bronze rider's had, could it be the renegades which had caused this misfortune to fall?

Ahh man… Skyler slumps a little as the Weyrwoman, of all people, calls him back "Well, if there's no dead body or renegades, why do I have to stay back here then?" he asks as he comes over. Course, he's looking off at the group tracking the clues. Then he looks at the bark. "Why are we getting dead tree bits anyways?" he asks and then looks at his basket. It does have things in it, but not alot. "Seems silly to me, and it's sooo boring! Please? Can't I go too?"

"It's fine, sir," Amethyst replies to the bronzerider, a defiant, stubborn set to her jaw as she looks up at him. "Whatever we find, I'm sure I've seen worse…" And she's got a knife in her hand too, see? The candidate hovers behind Mr'az, squinting at the markings in the snow, then casting her gaze about her, just as Braln is doing. They're still in sight of the little group left behind, and she looks back to them briefly, wincing even when she spies Lila with them. "Trouble back there," she whispers, before taking a couple more steps… before the snow-covered ground gives way beneath her, and with a squeal of surprise Amethyst slips down, and out of sight.

Braln was about to huff and grump at the candidate for being where she shouldn't be… but then she's gone when he turns around at the sound of her yelping. "What the…" There's something far more unsavoury that follows, luckily just for Mr'az's ears as the guard stomps to where the snow's disturbed, peering down into the hole that's been uncovered in the slip. "Oi! You alright?" Despite being muffled, the screamed response Amethyst gives suggests she's anything but… but the hole she's slipped through is too big for the guard to fit in, so he looks to Mr'az, uncertain whether the rider'll fit, either. "C'n you get down there?"

"Blood, no blood… Weyrwoman?" Lila's confused, and she glowers down at the young candidate beside her when he has so many questions. "It makes good tea, for when you're full of winter cold," she snaps, reaching out like she's going to clip him round the back of his head. The movement's interrupted though when there's a scream, and the cook looks up, in the direction of where the little trio - duo?! - disappeared. "What was that?"

"It's not fine," Mr'az counters, levelling Amethyst with a look as he pauses mid-search. "Because if something happens to you and grievous enough, you'll lose out on your chance to Stand as a Candidate and I will likely be turfed from Fort Weyr by Th'ero for endangering you. So, if you please? At least stay back in the view of the others. Let us know if something changes…" Too late. Amethyst is determined, despite Mr'az's warnings and he's distracted when she mentions trouble. "By whom? The cook Lila? Hey — Candidate!" Too slow and she's gone and soon Mr'az is swearing as colourful as Braln. "Shards 'n shells! Y'alright? Hurt?" The bronzerider calls down to Amethyst, over her screams. Damn. "Dunno. Looks tight even for me. I've rope, but if she injured… Be careful where you stand! Ground gave way on her…" Already his training is kicking in and he begins to examine the situation, slipping off his backpack and gear.

Nyalle blinks. "Blood makes good tea?" And here she thought she knew a lot about tea! Amethyst's scream has Nyalle spinning around with a startled yelp, taking a step before she halts. "Mr'az!" she calls instead. "Is she okay? Can you get her? Kayeth can send dragons." So can Zhirazoth, but…she wants to be helping. "What can we do?" She looks around. "Who is the smallest?" Oh great. It's probably Skyler or Ravyal. She doesn't look thrilled at those options. So she looks at Hazelon hopefully.

When the woman yells out Hazelon makes a small step forward then stops as if conflicted. His eyes rove around just enough to catch the weyrwoman's eye. He'll stare for a moment then sigh, just slightly. His footfalls are almost silent has he moves away from the woman and two younger men and towards the guards and that newly made hole very carefully. After watching that hole he'll finally say, "I can be gettin' down there with her, if you be ready to be bringin' us back up after." His voice is soft, just for the ears of the guards.

"You lot!" Braln hollers back at the group left behind, pointing at them. "One've you skinny-asses get your behind here, now! His bark echoes Nyalle's question, though of course he didn't hear it, before he looks at Mr'az. "Send one've 'em in. Those ain't hurt screams… will you shut up in there, or you'll make the rest of the snow fall in!" It works; Amethyst goes quiet. "She's here," the candidate's trembling voice can just about be heard by the bronzerider and guard, muffled by the snow. "… A-and I'm ok… it's just… deep…"

"Faranth's eggshards," Lila hisses, looking behind them to the rest of the crowd, where there's plenty of people - though none of them close. "There's a draybeast. If we've got rope, we can haul them out? Weyrwoman Nyalle, what do we do?" Hazelon's bravery in volunteering wins him a smile from the plump cook. "Brave boy! Go on then!"

Wrinkling his nose a little at the thought of drink bark Skyler icks a little "Gross." is all he says to that, but at the hand, he's letting out a muffled yelp and ducks a little in anticipation and then it's not there. Wait. Screaming? He's whirling around, eyes wide. "Whoa! What happened?! Did they find a body?" So, he's incorrigible. Then he's looking at Nyalle with a bright grin on his face "See! I can help!" he exclaims brightly, practically jumping up and down without really doing it.

Zhirazoth is already informing the dragons who Need to Know and that would be Kayeth, as well as Velokraeth and Niumdreoth. Faranth help them all if Amethyst isn't pulled up and unscathed out of that hole by the time Th'ero gets wind of this and can get out to the barrens. Renegades will seem like tame canine puppies compared to the Weyrleader's fury. Maybe that's why Mr'az works with hurried efficiency or it's just Turns of training and practice. He glares at Braln. "Quit with your hollerin! Don't be telling her to shut up neither." He'll bite his tongue before he snaps at the man about his failure of keeping a Candidate from danger. Way to be guarding! Fail. Eyeing Hazelon, Mr'az looks ready to protest. Another Candidate? Not that he's got much choice. Even Skyler, the youngest, is a Candidate too. "Damn it. Fine, here…" Mr'az will finish uncoiling some rope and toss one end to Hazelon, helping him in getting it settled and tied properly. "Don't play the hero. If you can't grab her safely, tell us to pull you up and we'll try again. Got it?" Since Hazelon is literally going in blind. Grimacing, Mr'az will take the rest of the rope and find a secure anchor to which to tie it too. Hard and tight. Still, he motions for Braln to step forwards. Guard should know what to do! "You too, lad," Mr'az calls to Skyler, if the young Candidate is close enough to hear him or see his gesture. Tiny though he is, it's another set of hands to hold the rope as they lower Hazelon and to pull, hopefully, both Candidates back.

Ten points for Gryffindor! Nyalle smiles gratefully as Hazelon moves forward past her. "Thank you," she says quietly to the Candidate. "Stay back," is her first answer to Lila. "We'll see that she's out and safe." Oh, confident reassurance. It's coming easier now. "Just stay back and give them room to work. She'll be fine." Then the Weyrwoman looks at Skyler. "NO." That's her Firm Voice. Sorry, kid. But…then Mr'az is calling him forward. Huff. Nyalle reluctantly follows, wringing her hands nervously.

It isn't bravery. Just simple fact that if he doesn't go down they might send that chattering kid and then they'd never get out of here. Not quite ready to trust someone else tying the knots around him, he double checks before jumping down into the hole. Hopefully Amethyst isn't right under where he lands or that would be painful. There he'll reach out, hoping a hand hits the woman. "Amethyst, you ain't hurt?" The guards above might object to this, but Hazelon could actually care less. He unties the rope from his waist intent on getting it around the woman. The can always throw it back down for him later.

"I'm not injured," Amethyst calls out, her voice trembling but not quite scared-pitched. "But I'm going to need a hand… there's… Braln? Guard Braln? There's a… there's a… um… lady. D-dead… I think it was her blood…" The candidate crawls to where she can be seen, flicking snow and dirt away from her hood and hair. "I-if someone can pass the rope down," she heard Mr'az mention it, "I can get her up… with some help."

Braln doesn't seem overly pleased to be yelled at by Mr'az, but he takes it and shuts up, anyway. Apart from when he's got something to add, anyway… "Don't be touching that body! It's gotta be looked over by the guards, not candidates!" For that, he glowers at Mr'az, willing to argue over it if he has to. "They go in. They get the girl out. Not the stiff."

Luckily Amethyst isn't under where Hazelon lands, but he is close to the frozen corpse. "Watchit!" She hisses, trying to get him to avoid getting too close. "Let's get her out, Haze? Can't leave her here, no matter what that guy says…" She'll take the rope, starting to tie it around the dead woman's waist where she lies, curled up in a bloody ball.

Hazelon steps on the arm of the dead woman, his eyes narrowing at the squish. A familiar feeling, one he had hoped to never feel again that soft cruch and smooth of skin under heel. He doesn't move to help the other candidate right away, though when the girl makes it completly apparent that she is going to hoist that body up he'll shake his head and then do it. "Wrists and feet, and tight."

Skyler sighs a little as Nyalle tells him no and he looks ready to resign himself to staying back when he's called in to help. His eyes lighting up, he casts an almost apologetic look at the Weyrwoman and then he's racing off to help hold the rope. Pleased to be of help. There's a brief pause as he hear's Amethyst and then his eyes are going wide again "A body.." he says, almost reverently and then he's running faster to get in line to help hold the rope. He peers towards the hole, hoping for a glimpse, even with his bad position to see in.

"Wrists and feet…" Amethyst does as she's told, following Hazelon's lead to get the body trussed and ready for hoisting, despite what Braln may have said. "We're ready!" She hollers up at the folks still topside, giving a tug on the rope for them to start hauling. "Hazelon… look…" Amethyst points to the corner of the tiny cave, where a dull glint catches her eye… "My necklace." Lord Ruatha's sister's necklace really, but there it is, nevertheless!

Braln, looking to the others for help, even to little Skyler, starts to haul… then hisses a barrage of bad words that candidates as young as the littlest one with them probably shouldn't hear. "Told you to leave it be!" He snarls when he realises it's the body, and not one of the candidates. When the rope comes down next, though, it's clearly for one of them to be hauled up.

"You." Hazelon grabs that rope and will chase the step or two after the other candidate. His eyes only flick to that necklaces before shruging. He hadn't seen it before, and though he knows the value of the thing, it holds zero alure for him. "Please don't be makin' me get you in this without you agreein' I been told to stay out of trouble."

What is it with young boys and morbid curiosities? Mr'az will have more to explain to Nyalle later (and Th'ero now too — he'd much rather have the Weyrwoman to face). "Leave it be, Braln! They meant well. No sense getting bent out of shape about it now." he snaps at the Guard, teeth gritted with the strain of hauling up the heavy weight of the dead body. As the rope is toss back down, Mr'az will call from above: "You two best hurry it up! Give the rope a tug when you're ready!" And waiting for that cue, they'll work on pulling both Amethyst and Hazelon to safety.

Nyalle has to turn away when the body is lifted. She just can't handle it, and moves swiftly back to camp.

Lila can't handle the sight of it either; she follows Nyalle in leaving, returning to the group to gather them up, to start heading back home.

"I'm going, thank you." Amethyst touches Hazelon's arm in gentle thanks, grabbing onto the rope and giving it a tug. She'll help by using what footholds she can find on her way up, crawling over the edge before tossing the rope back down for Hazelon. Then she rolls out of the way for them to pull him up, sitting with her knees hugged to her chest for a moment, staring at the body. "It - she - had my necklace." There it is, in the Smith-turned-candidate's hand.

Braln looks like he's about to snarl at Mr'az, but he lets it go to put his energy into hauling the candidates up. Once they're there, safe and sound on ground level, he goes tostudy the body. "Nothing for any of you here any more. This is guard work, now." He's already called on a firelizard and sent off a note to the Weyr, while standing almost protectively over the icy corpse. "Go on. All of you. Nothing to see here. You," to Amethyst, "give me the necklace. Both of you," that includes Hazelon, too, "will be needed later. At the Weyr. For questions. Go on, now."

Nyalle is quite happy to hurry back to the weyr. To bathe, to change, and to find her spot on Kayeth's foreleg, and wait for Mr'az to come apologize. Yup, she'll be on the Sands. Where it's safe and there are no dead people.

Hazelon's gaze stiffens once he is out of that hole and the question of questioning is brought up. No one will be getting much from the candidate tonight, as he has become mute. There's been enough of that. The extra knife in his belt is pulled out and droped at the guard's food before he turns on his heel and heads back towards the weyr. Though he does keep the second knife. Hopefully no one minds. Into the forest he slips, disappearing swiftly from view.

Lack of real life experiances. Skyler just looks at Braln, his eyes wide. Wow. Talk about colorful language. Then there's the body, and Skyler just sort of stares at it. His mouth opens and then closes. He doesn't move. He's just continuing to stare at it. He swallows a moment even as his face goes a bit white.

Mr'az is not fazed by the sight of the body, at least not to the point that he has to leave. It probably helps that he has to focus on the Candidates and making sure they're safe and whole. "Both of you alright?" he asks, peering closely at Hazelon and Ameythyst as he begins to coil up the rope and gather it. He'll glance to Skyler too. "And you, lad?" When the knife is dropped at his feet, Mr'az scoops to pick it up. "Thanks," he mutters and doesn't try to stop him from stalking off, chalking it to a bad reaction to the events. Speaking of which… Mr'az will clap his hand firmly to Skyler's shoulder. "Lad… why don't you help me with my gear and come back to the Weyr, hmm? We'll get you something warm to drink. Come on, you heard the Guard. Nothing to see." Glaring at Braln, Mr'az snorts. "You presume too much Guard. I'm sure Captain Breshir and Weyrleader Th'ero will wish to have a few words with you concerning this matter. " Oh yes, the Weyrleader will be LIVID when he arrives… which will mercifullly be after Mr'az has hopefully guided the remaining Candidates away.

"Fine, sir. Shook up a little, is all… bruised a bit, too, but… I'll live." Amethyst gets to her feet, walking over to Skyler with a slight limp to her step. She looks comfortingly down at him, as Mr'az gives him directions. "Come on, Skyler, I'll give you a hand, hrm?" With a wink that's a little too cheery considering what's just gone down, the candidate gives her fellow's shoulder a warm squeeze before shifting to help Mr'az. "Thank you, sir." Braln? He gets no spoken thanks, just a nod; he's not exactly been friendly, now, has he? "Want to walk back alongside me, Skyler?"

Still staring at the body he nods a moment at Mr'az and then he blinks "What? Huh? Umm. Yeah. Okay." Another swallow. "Yeah. Nothing. Nothing to see." Something that can be unseen is more like it. He then turns to follow Mr'az and he's silent. Not bouncy and exciting. No. It certainly wasn't exciting. He looks up at Amethyst and then nods. "Yeah." He certainly doesn't want to go back by himself now.

"Alrighty," Amethyst says, ready to follow in the wake of everyone else who's leaving. She pauses by Skyler's side, affectionately ruffling his hair. Condescending? Sure, but she looks almost as if she needs the reassurance of the familiar action. "Ready to go? Let's get out of here. Hot drinks and cookies in the barracks sounds pretty amazing to me right about now… I reckon I can steal us some."

Skyler doesn't seem to mind the ruffling and just steps in a little closer. "Yeah, something warm." He then looks back up at Amethyst "Can I umm, can I skip the cookies?" he asks quietly. He looks around a moment and then back to Amethyst and then whispers to her. "I don't think it'll sit real well. I mean." There's a pause "Let's just go home."

Amethyst nods, resting an arm gently over the boy's shoulders to haul him into her side for a hug, if he wants it; there's no-one there to see it now, right? "Sure. A mug of hot cider will warm us up, and help us sleep. I don't know about you, but I'm freezing." And dirty. She could do with a bath. Sighing tiredly, she gently steers Skyler Weyrwards, sticking close to his side as they follow in the wake of the others.


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