Fort's Forests - Fort Weyr - Camp Lake
A short distance from the community center a lake has been dug and was then filled by a stream which originated in the mountains leaving the water with a bit of a chill early in the day. Large enough to keep all the children from the camp happily swimming, but not so large that a dragon would be comfortable bathing in it. A newly constructed dock has several small boats tied up to it, surrounding the lake sand has been brought in, freshly raked to remove any stones or other debris that might injure small feet, a path leads off to a stage.
The trail is lined with rounded stones to make walking along it in bare feet easier. The stage itself is sturdily built to withstand most any wind and any tremors that might hit, a large awning is stretched over the stage offering protection to the actors/players in case of inclement weather. Split log benches are lined in front of the stage giving abundant seating for those who wish to watch the performances, there is also an area that has been cleared of debris, and layered with soft woodchips for those who might wish to lay down and just watch the clouds float by or spend an evening star gazing.
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(Continued from What is Mine is Yours?)

Rayathess starts and flinches before lifting up a warding hand to Ezra, though it's more like a warning gesture than anything. "No!" he says, a bit more forceful than he intended and for a moment he is alarmed until he reigns himself in and sighs. His shoulders drop, along with his hand and he shakes his head. "No. I don't… want to know." Liar. "She doesn't know who I really am, Ezra. I don't think she'll like to know I had a hand in the final decisions. And I've no doubt there are records…" Something he doesn't sound too pleased about but knows there is no sense fighting over.

Ezra jumps a bit, a little startled, frowning. "But…" he begins, his over active imagination already working. "But you could help her maybe, and…she was your friend…maybe you two are supposed to be together." Ezra is a total romantic at heart.

Maybe Rayathess is too but right now he looks only pained and conflicted as Ezra continues to push and pry. Something that shocks the young man and yet… finds touching, despite his growing discomfort. He rocks on his heels a bit, fidgeting and awkward as he walks but it's slow and distracted. "It's never that simple," he mutters. "She could hate me. Despise me. I lied, after all, right? She could be anywhere. Here, the Holds…" His mouth twitches and he mutters in a quiet voice. "…the islands."

Ezra ohs softly. "Okay," he says quietly, shoving his hands into his pockets until one of them strays to rub Zoi's ears thoughtfully. And he won't push again. He understands, a bit, as to why Rayathess might not want to see her again. So, like any kid, he tries to turn the conversation around to himself. "I want a girlfriend."

Unknown to Ezra though, he's planted a little seed of doubt in his older brother and Rayathess will nurture it later when he's in the quiet and solitude of his own rooms. Should he contact her? Or will it just be another thing of his to regret and be bitter about? Ezra's blunt statement works and he laughs, "Shards, why? What's got you rushing for some pretty girl?" he teases and yet is obviously curious. And maybe just a WEE bit protective.

"I'm fifteen!" Ezra protests. "Almost everyone else in my class has already had a boyfriend or a girlfriend. And I dunno, I think it'd be nice? Right now my only friends are you and D'ani and Inri. I want…want more friends," he admits almost sheepishly, glancing away.

"Still young and barely an adult!" Rayathess fires back to Ezra's protests, his grin light but crooked. Just some normal sibling bantering, this is. "Oh, I get it. Everyone else is doing it, so you gotta have it too, eh? And yeah, could be nice. Could be a nightmare. You're probably asking the wrong guy when it comes to girls and love…" he admits dryly, only to then blink, looking a touch sheepish too. He's a friend? "None… your age?" he says, only to wince. "You know… too many can be bad. It's not like… like collecting stones or whatnot."

Ezra tries to smack Rayathess in the shoulder, or the arm, or wherever. Then he shrugs. "None my age, no. D'ani's older, Inri's older." Raya is obviously older. "I dunno, just be nice to know some kids - /people/" he corrects, "my own age."

He'll tag Rayathess in the arm the easiest and the young man only snorts and twitches the limb away with a mock hurt look. Hey! In revenge, he'll try to ruffle Ezra's hair or at least threaten to do so. "Guess you got a point," he mutters, "Though D'ani and Inri are both good people. Good to have on your side. So… go make friends then? You said you were takin' your lessons again. Start there." He makes it seem so easy! "Can't hurt to try, right? Even if they don't stick as good friends."

Ezra ducks his head and threatens to push his brother's hand away, and then he's nodding. "Oh, yeah! For sure. I know they are and I won't get rid of them for /anything/. But they're…grown ups. They've got jobs and stuff. I want people to…to play with," he mutters sheepishly. "You make it sound so easy. Most kids think I'm weird. I am."

Play. There's an odd concept for Rayathess to grasp. He was Ezra's age, wasn't he, when Laris came? How long has it been since he ever considered THAT thought. "Yeah, that… makes it tough." he mumbles, walking them back towards the main path leading to the forests and taking a wide berth of any of the thicker and deeper patches of water and mud. He smirks, "The kid who think you're weird are idiots. So what if you are? You don't want those one's as friends anyhow and you can only keep trying."

Ezra shrugs, "I guess, but it's hard. I've got a reputation for being…wanting to be by myself. So it's hard to suddenly be social and want to hang out with people. They don't know how to act around me…I tried sitting with them at lunch last week and they said no…"

Rayathess utters a curse and a frustrated sound as he exhales. THAT tactic. Classic. But irritating, even to him. "Kids." he mutters and then tries to give his younger brother a playful and reassuring nudge. "They're just playing games. Give 'em time. They'll figure it out soon enough that you're just wanting to be social. And if they don't…" He shrugs. "I still stands by my previous statement." Screw 'em. He doesn't say it, but his expression speaks volumes. And THAT is why Rayathess has no friends, folks.

Ezra sighs, shrugging his shoulders. "I'll keep trying but it's hard," he murmurs. "I kind of wish some new kids would come, so I could meet people that don't already know me." If that makes any sense. It does in his own mind! "Maybe Candidates…"

"Welcome to the world. It's hard and it sucks." Rayathess mutters and a touch bitterly, which he tries to ward off with an amused scoff. It must make sense, as he's suggesting the very same thing in the same breath that Ezra does. "Candi— yeah, that. Didn't they just bring in some for Iaverulth's clutch? Or will. None of the weyrbrats, huh?"

Ezra's steps slow and he looks up at his brother with a frown. "Do you really believe that?" he asks, quiet and sad. And concerned, if truth be told. "Has…it been that bad that you're not even…like…optimistic any more?" Then he shrugs, "Yeah, I think there've been a few."

Rayathess's steps slow as well and he will turn to face Ezra with a look that is sad but withdrawn. "It wasn't exactly easy. It was bad. Being in those camps. Gold Hill." He lifts his hands to gesture towards the Weyr. "Even coming here was hard. I wasn't exactly warmly welcomed. Folk at least don't eye me like I'm some… suspicious figure. Can't say it's won me any friends either."

Ezra shakes his head, "But it doesn't all suck," he says quietly. "Fort helped us, and Laris is dead, and his followers are gone away where they'll never bother us again. And the weyr will help us re-build Stonehaven. And before Laris, life was good…"

Rayathess turns away and begins to walk again, slow and sedately and with his head lowered he is hoping Ezra doesn't see how heavy and troubled his frown has become. "Well, yeah… of course life was good before! I meant more about now." Shoving his hands into his pockets, he smirks once more. "They did help us and yes, he's dead the bas— he deserved it." He catches himself before he swears, though he figures Ezra will be sharp enough to pick up on it. Nothing is said regarding the followers and he only presses his limbs down into a thin line.

Ezra quickens his pace to catch up. "Don't…do you ever think you'll be happy again?" he asks, the quiet, almost scared question of a younger brother worried about his big brother.

"Maybe? I dunno… I guess. In time." Rayathess mutters, shoulders hunched now against more than just the cold breeze. He sighs then, glancing back to his younger brother. "There's a lot I have to work through. Fix. You shouldn't worry though, alright?" Yeah, right. He's hardly making it reassuring for his sibling!

Ezra snorts, "Don't tell me what to do," he returns swiftly. "I'm gonna worry about you and you're gonna worry about me. We're brothers, we're supposed to do that. "What do you have to work through? Can I help?"

"Yes I can!" Rayathess fires back but with an undertone of laughter to his voice, serious and teasing in the same breath. He can't argue Ezra's logic though. He's got a very good point! "Fine. You're right." Shaking his head, he frowns again and his mouth settles into a frustrated and tense line. "A lot." he says stubbornly and sighs again, kicking at a small stone. "Don't even know where to start. And…you sure you want to help? It might be…" Disturbing? Scary? Unsettling? Hurtful? "…bad." Nutshell.

Ezra frowns, "Of course I want to help," he says stubbornly. Very stubbornly. "I know it's bad. That's why I want to help." Duuuuuh.

Rayathess can be just as stubborn as his younger brother and he digs in — for now. "It's BAD, bad." he stresses. Because THAT makes total sense, but he likely assumes that Ezra will understand. "Like… disturbing bad. Nightmare bad. I don't even know if I can TALK about it. No offence. I trust you but…" he grimaces and looks away. "There's just some stuff I'd rather you no know."

Ezra's steps slow and then stop, even when Zoi continues on after Raya for a few steps before turning around to return to her master's side. "That really hurts," he finally says, when he can get his voice to work again.

Rayathess stops when he realizes that Ezra is no longer there, tipped off by Zoi's sudden turn around. He can only give his brother a look that is half apologetic and half regretful, shoulders sagging a bit. "I'm just sayin' the truth!" he tells him as he walks forwards to step back to his side. "What really hurt? That I won't be able to talk about all of it? Cause I won't be. Not right away. Some of it hurts ME. Too much. I don't like to dredge up some of the stuff in here." He taps the side of his head for emphasis. "But I never said I'd not try. You're just going to have to understand I might clam up." Or have a fit.

Ezra shrugs, "Sounded like you weren't going to talk to me about any of it," he mutters, looking up at his brother without looking away.
Rayathess shoulder bumps Ezra with a closed fist, giving him a good nudge. "Nope. I will but I can't just… open up completely. And if I didn't wanna talk at all, I'd just straight up and tell you." he points out with a smirk, looking down at him again to prove that he's quite serious on THAT at least.

Ezra takes a slow breath and then nods, giving his brother a smile. "I want to talk too," he says softly. "But I'll listen too. I'm trying to get better at listening…"

Rayathess exhales slowly and in relief, managing a bare and light smile to return to his younger brother. "Then it looks like we've got that settled. So we'll talk. Alright?" Should he hold out his hand so they can shake on it? It almost seems like he will, but he could just be fidgeting with his jacket again.

Ezra nods, "Alright," he says, and he'll make that decision for him by extending a hand. "Deal." Assuming they shake on it, he puts his hands back into his pocket and stares ahead. Apparently he won't be the one to start.

Rayathess won't refuse Ezra a handshake and claps his hand firmly with his. "Deal." he returns and then swiftly allows his brother's hand to fall free. Turning then, he begins to walk on down the path, also keeping his eyes straight ahead and his arms held at his side. After a few quiet moments, when it's clear that Ezra is refusing to start, he sighs softly. "Alright. Where do you want to start?"

Ezra shrugs one shoulder and is quiet for a moment. "Maybe from the beginning? What you remember from that night, and what happened after…"

Rayathess exhales heavily and utters a low, grumbled curse. Not directed at Ezra but more as an outlet for his frustration as he tries to organize the chaotic mess that is his mind. "I don't remember much… Except panic and fear. Chaos. Dark and cold and fighting. Running. All three of us, running. I guess I panicked too, once we got out. Anrila and I, that is. I had to carry her and I thought… I thought you were right behind me. I should've stopped." he says, hesitating and going silent so abruptly that he may have already hit a breaking point. But he pushes through, his voice lowered and no longer confident. "Instead I took us deep into the woods. It was too late then." Was it?

Ezra nods his head a bit. "I was right behind you, until I wasn't…" Which is vague but it's the best way he can describe it. "There was an intersection and I just got lost, and ended up deeper in the tunnels, and then I just hid. I was too scared to try and get out. I figured someone would find me…and I just hoped they'd be a good person." He thought his brother would come back for him. Told himself that over and over again.

"You were smart to hide instead of trying to find your way out again." Rayathess tells him without hesitation. It's not meant to be reassuring, just blunt fact spoken from his mind. Ezra may not have said it out loud, but that is one thing they share: his thought that his older brother would return and Rayathess' never ending guilt over NOT returning. "I wish it had been me," he mutters sadly. "And not the Weyrwoman and Weyrleader. I regret that and… always will, I think. I should have hidden Anrila — she would have stayed quiet. She was terrified. But I just couldn't and I couldn't bring myself to leave her. Too much risk. But I was turning back anyways. Never made it." Obviously.

Ezra nods his head slightly. "I…I used to wish it had been you," he says, quiet and thoughtful. "But now I'm glad…well. Not glad. But. Those days…they were horrible. But they were only a few days. I didn't have to be in the camps. That would've been worse. Way worse. I wish you and Anrila had stayed behind with me, and you didn't have to go there…" He is quiet for a moment. "So in a way I think I'm lucky."

Ezra admitting to having wanted it to be him that came to the rescue both reassures Rayathess' guilt and increases it. It's an odd sensation, that sort of conflict and he grimaces for a moment as he wrestles with it and shoves it aside to work out later. "You have no idea," he says in a flat tone when the subject of the camps comes up. "I tried, I really did, to get back to Stonehaven. But in my panic, I made some bad decisions. I moved when I should've waited and I blundered right into their path. I could have run then but they'd have caught me easily trying to drag Anrila… so I lied." To save them. But for a hefty price. "I don't think either of us were lucky, really. We both had it rough… just different."

Ezra nods, pushing hair away from his forehead. "I know you did," he says quietly. "I know you would've come if it'd been possible…I know that now." He didn't before. "Different," he agrees with a nod, his hand reaching out to tug gently on his brother's sleeve in a silent and shy request to hold his hand again. "Both lonely, both scared, both doing the best we could…"

But he didn't. Rayathess just won't let that go, even if he doesn't speak of it again. At the tug to his sleeve, he pauses for a moment in his stride to peer curiously at his brother before figuring out his request. His hand is offered in silence and he will not question why or balk. No one is out here and even if they were, he'd promptly tell them off if they stared or snickered. "We survived." he says quietly. "And Laris is dead, with half of his men and the rest rotting on those islands. But we're still here."

Ezra squeezes his brother's hand and nods. "We are," he says quietly. "Which is why we haveta get Stonehaven back. So Laris didn't win." Didn't succeed. "Tell me more?" he asks carefully.

Rayathess shakes his head and squeezes Ezra's hand back in return, "He hasn't won and wouldn't even if Stonehaven remained empty. Have to wipe out the bloodline too. He failed miserably at that." he mutters with a faint, crooked smile. "Never even knew I was there, all that time, right in the heart of his precious following." He takes a slow, deep and steadying breath then. "More of what?"

Ezra can't help but smirk a bit, though sadly. "Didn't get any of us kids…" he says quietly. "Stonehaven lives on. And no, he didn't know," he says, and there's quiet, smug satisfaction to that. "More of the story…"

Rayathess winces. No, none of the kids but the rest of their family instead… He won't speak of that. Can't speak of that. Not yet and not out here, even if they are the only two souls wandering the muddy, waterlogged paths. "What part of the story? You mean in the camps…?" And there is obvious reluctance in his tone.

Ezra shrugs, "More of whatever else you want to say," he says quietly, giving his hand a little squeeze. "Or nothing. Or ask me something. Whatever."

Rayathess sighs and then chuckles despite the frustrated sound of his voice. "You got to ask questions or be a bit more specific. I just… can't randomly start. There's too much." And he can too easily stumble into something he may not want to touch upon until it's too late. Squeezing back, he smirks then. "Did they really just bring you back here, once you were found? And you stayed by choice?"

Ezra nods. "They did, yeah. They put me with Elara. She looked after me. And yeah…I stayed by choice. Where else would I have gone? I was scared." Terrified more like it. "Felt safe having a gold dragon on the ledge…" Wiyaneth is scary when she wants to be. "What kind of work did you do? Did you move around a lot?"

Rayathess nods his head, as if Ezra's answer confirms some memory buried among the others in his head. "Right. I remember that. Wiyaneth's rider." he murmurs and then grimaces. "I bet you were scared. And you would be safe on her ledge." There is no doubt for him that the gold or any of the dragons can be scary when they want to be! He falls silent then, frowning heavily as he broods over his brother's questions. It starts with the easiest first, "We moved constantly to start, especially when we were still in Fort's territory. A lot of backtracking, since we stayed well off any paths. He gathered a few more along the way to the coasts, but he lost a lot of his main group the first time the Weyr found his camp. I wish he hadn't of thought to split us up… Otherwise we'd have been there." He can only shrug helplessly. Done is done. "He moved us all to Xanadu's region then. That was the scariest part." And hardest. "I did whatever I was told to do. Menial work, mostly. I was playing a false role as a jack of all trades. I'd always find a way out of the… the bad work. Raids and stuff. Except…" he falters.

Ezra nods his head a bit as he listens, head down and watching where he steps. "How did you get to Xanadu?" he says quietly. Then he looks up and over, briefly, at the trailing off sentence. He waits for a second before gently prompting, "Except?"

"Boat." Rayathess answers simply and though he looks ahead, his eyes are distant and he shoves his hands into his pockets again. "Don't remember much of that. Anrila was frightened, a lot of the folk were and we were kept in the dark a lot." Literally. "Then it was by foot. Laris left his men in charge for a bit. He disappeared with some child to the Weyr. I heard she was brought back too, when she was found. But I watched our sister so much more carefully after that." He smirks then as Ezra prompts him. "Except Gold Hill." he finishes. "I agreed to that one. But not for the reasons they thought."

Ezra shivers a bit, shaking his head. "Dragons are so much easier…" But of course Laris wouldn't have access to that. Then he grins, slow and almost wicked, though there's relief mixed in there too. Afraid, perhaps, that Rayathess participated in /another/ raid? "No, of course not. You tricked them good."

Exactly! "They are," Rayathess agrees. "But they would never do business for Laris. It was said he HAD met with some dragonriders, but those must have been independents. Even then, he probably had them fooled and played innocent." he goes on to explain and with his eyes turned forwards he misses Ezra's almost wicked grin of relief. "That I did. None suspected me as a traitor. Let alone a surviving heir of a cothold Laris put to the blade and raided." His voice has taken a harsher and sarcastic edge then.

Ezra nods his firm agreement. "Never would've done that," he says quietly, the very thought of riders working for Laris is laughable to the teen. "You did good," he says quietly. "To keep it all a secret. Do…is it hard for you to talk to people? Because you kept everything a secret for so long?"

It's laughable even for one like Rayathess, who's trust in dragonriders is not quite as solid as some. He's adjusting though to Weyr life, slowly but surely. Brows lift at Ezra's praise and then settle back into a conflicted frown. "Did I? Somedays I'm not sure. I carry a lot of regret with me. And Anrila is out there still… somewhere. Innocent or not, I was part of Gold Hill. And I had a hand in the judgement that sent many women and men to those forsaken islands." he murmurs and only shakes his head. "Could be. And I just don't trust people anymore. I've seen how bad they can be or become."

Ezra shrugs a bit as they walk, thoughtful for a long moment before he speaks up again, quietly. "I think you did the best with what you had," he says quietly. "You had to make lots of decisions, and I think you made the best ones… And the islands are their fault, not yours. They got what they deserved." Glancing at Rayathess, the boy fidgets for a moment. "Do you trust me?"

Rayathess would look touched and maybe even happy by Ezra's quiet spoken words if his features hadn't locked themselves into a conflicted and heavy frown that is bordering on a scowl. Talk about confused signals? "Did they though? Some of those folks… they weren't entirely bad. Or I never thought so. Did things they had to to survive, like I did and yet they are gone. I suppose by choice… and I really only spoke out for the ones I KNEW were guilty." he admits before turning his head to his brother and at last managing a small smile. "Think I'd be talking to you if I didn't?"

Confused signals indeed. Ezra looks a bit thrown off by them, but forges on ahead. "It wasn't your responsibility," he says quietly. "And you spoke out against the ones, yeah, that you knew were bad. The rest…I don't know. The weyr and Harpers did the best they could." He has to believe that. Then he smiles, looking a bit sheepish and looking away. "So yes?"

Rayathess only grunts his agreement to Ezra on the matter of whether or not he played a part in sending innocents to that island. "Guess they could've faced a worse punishment. I was told they'd stake really bad criminals out to Thread during those eras." He shudders and his expression turns to one of disgust. To hopefully lighten the mood, he'll pull a hand from his pocket and try to ruffle his brother's hair again. "Yeah! I do."

Ezra nods, "Yeah, they would," he says with a quiet, morbid confidence. Then he's making a low sound of protest and pushing at his brother's hand - but he tries to grab it to start a little wrestling skirmish if Rayathess is up for it. "I trust you too."

Oh, it is so ON! Rayathess will be surprised at first when Ezra grabs his hand, only to then tentatively smile crookedly as he catches on. Then the wrestling begins in earnest, with him trying to seek to pin his younger brother against his hip, likely by his shoulders and bent so that he can ruffle his hair unchallenged. Noogie! But that is if luck favors him. The ground here is muddy and slippery from the rains, something that Rayathess is overlooking for now.

Ezra laughs, and the lanky boy wiggles and tries all the little brother tactics he knows, including just going suddenly limp in the hopes of squirming out of his brother's hold.

Rayathess will know most of those tactics very well by now and foils most of them. Grinning now, he even laughs softly for some of the attempts made and when Ezra almost earns his freedom but doesn't quite. The 'going limp' trick is what works in the end. Not prepared for it, Rayathess' foot slips in the mud and rather than lose his balance and topple into the freezing cold mud, he lets his grip go on his younger brother with a startled grunt as he stumbles.

Ezra bolts free with a gleeful laugh, vanishing into the trees.

Rayathess has barely recovered his balance by the time Ezra is bolting and still caught up in the moment, he gives chase with a loud whoop of laughter. "Get back here!" he yells.

Ezra's laughter trails out behind him as he dashes through the trees, and his only shout is, predictably, "No!"

(Continued in: Don't Run in the Forests!)


'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.