NOTE: This scene is backdated! This occurred shortly before Zuvaleyuth's and Velokraeth's clutch hatched off camera and before Western's Hatching. It is not ICly known what occurred, just random bits of gossip floating about concerning the sudden "missing" numbers among the candidates…

Fort's Forests ~~ Fort Weyr - Forest Ruins

Little more than foundations are left of this ancient building, the stones long-since fallen and scattered, and so overgrown as to make them nearly blend into the forest from a distance. Small as it is, the moss-covered walls and tumbled-down roof form a sort of maze that twists and winds around trees and shrubbery, some of which growing right out of cracks in the rock. Here and there, bits of metal are visible, peeking out of the ground between pine needles and other debris, a testament to just how old this structure is. An overhanging bit of what may have been the roof, with slate tiles set precariously over it, reveals a shadowed nook, and a stone staircase that descends into darkness. Possibly, there may have been an old mine shaft here, though now the dense foliage makes exploration difficult at best. There is, a little ways beyond the outskirts of the building, a clearer area, with the stone floor still somewhat intact.

Spring has yet to make it's presence known and in some parts of the Weyr, winter still keeps a tenacious hold. When the sun is up, it's possible to think that eventually things will be warm again. But at night, especially at the twilight hours past midnight, it's hard to imagine. The stars are out, as are both moons, which cast an eerie glow over Fort and this part of the forest is no exception. By now the Weyr is deep asleep, save for a few guards on the graveyard shift of patrols. It's the perfect time to sneak about on business that one wishes to keep secret. A few wingriders are roused by a request through their respective lifemates, a polite apology and then a quick question if they'd meet with the Weyr Leadership. Those that comply are met by a grim faced Th'ero, who quickly lays down the necessary details, curt and to the point, no hedging or dancing about the truth. He needs searchriders, when search should well and truly be done. But if they're willing, the riders will be told to wait by the forest ruins, just outside the Weyr's protective walls. There's enough space there for the dragons to gather, if folk are careful enough. A little snug, but not uncomfortable and while they settle in, another group is roused from a peaceful night sleep.

The candidate barracks are the next target, the whole lot of them woken and ordered out and many of their protests being left unanswered as they dress hastily and are ushered out into the cold. They don't go alone though, accompanied by guards and at least one or two riders among them. Eventually, they will all come pooling out into the ruins and no one expression or reaction is quite the same. They huddle close though, their combined voices sounding so overly loud in the quiet of the forests though they speak in hushed whispers and murmurs. Velokraeth isn't among the dragons assembled nearby, but Th'ero is there, dressed in his formal gear. Dark eyes match his dark mood as he surveys the arrival of the candidates, not seeming in the slightest bit sympathetic for dragging them out at this hour and in the cold. The Weyr's guard Captain approaches then, murmuring a few words to the Weyrleader. There's a nod and then Th'ero is signaling with a gloved hand for the wingriders to approach him, stepping off a bit from the gathered group of candidates. They'll be watched over by a few well placed guards and perhaps another rider among them.

Kimmila is here as well, standing by Th'ero's side. Someone might question (and maybe should!) what a Western rider is doing in such a clearly secret Fort Weyr operation, especially since she is knotless. Glancing at Th'ero, the bluerider murmurs something quietly to him and then follows alongside to talk with the wingriders, hands in the pockets of her unbuttoned riding coat, the blue and silver hilt of her dagger gleaming in the moonlight. Varmiroth is near the other dragons, head tilted as he looks over the Candidates, crooning softly and resting comfortably on his belly. « They are nervous, » the Western blue announces to the Fortian dragons, his tone a bit concerned.

The Weyrwoman, of course, is accompanying the Candidates out. She looks none too happy, either grumpy at the lack of sleep or grumpy at the entire situation. Muttering to herself, she follows in their steps and any attempts at running are met with swift discipline. Not that there have been very many attempts so far. "Th'ero. We got them all. There were a few hidin', but, they're there." A nod of her head towards the ones that look a little more upset than the rest. "Should be able ta tell just by lookin' at 'em which ones are and which ones ain't, but. Gotta do this the right way." Clearly, Dtirae doesn't entirely want to do it the right way.

It's perfectly normal for a wingsecond to help with candidates, and it's part of P'rius' push to get back into being a normal human being. Zhieth's blue-black hide is unique and nearly hides him in the dark. His rider still looks somewhat gaunt as he approaches the Weyrleader, but he's doing his best, "Sir. Ma'am." He inclines his head first to Th'ero, then to Dtirae, "Zhieth and I are prepared to help however you need us." The blue is, as always, silent.

Varmiroth is correct in saying the Candidates are nervous, because they are. Some genuinely, others not so much but are putting up a good attempt at it. Others are just plain puzzled at the whole affair. Is this normal? Why out here, where it's so cold and spooky? What did the Weyrwoman say? Why are there armed guards? All that and more are whispered among the group as they constrict even tighter when a few of the dragons begin to focus on them. At least no one bolts, but it's clear now that as they begin to wake up and clue into the situation, the mood could swiftly change.

"Indeed," Th'ero drawls in a low and deep tone as he turns his head towards Dtirae, a heavy frown settling on his brow. "Captain Breshir has assured me his men will keep an eye on the lot of them. We can focus on this… task. Get it done and over with." He turns his attention then to Kimmila, giving the knotless bluerider a lingering look and much is likely silently shared just from that gesture alone. P'rius' arrival earns the Wingsecond a long look as well, likely noting the gaunt appearance of the bluerider. "P'rius. Good of you to come." The Weyrleader says, though there is no smile and his hardened tone make sit hard to read what is true mood is. A few more riders approach, murmuring their names and earning similar greetings in turn. Clearing his throat, Th'ero then gets straight to business. It's cold, it's late and he wants this /done/ before someone clues in and tongues wag. "We're going to send one candidate up at a time. Have the dragon's sense them out. If it's a flat out no, they stay here," And he gestures with a downwards point to indicate the ruins, "Until we can talk to them. If the dragons vote towards yes… then it's the barracks for them. Any questions before we get this started?" He darts his eyes from one rider to the next, lingering longer on the Weyrwoman. "And," Th'ero adds after some silence, "No one and I mean /no one/, is to speak of this. Not a word. I don't care how folk question. Bad enough we're doing it at all."

Kimmila nods her head to the Weyrleader's words, giving him a faint smile at his look before green eyes flick around to the other riders present, taking note of who is there - and who isn't. F'ian is there though, the brownrider standing and idly picking at his nails. "Aye," he says, looking over to his brown who is looming a bit over the Candidates. "Why?" he asks, looking back at Th'ero. "Why the second Search of 'em? Ain't it good we got a lot of choice for the hatchlings?" And, ever the flirt, he can't help but toss a wink towards Dtirae and then Kimmila, the latter flipping him off in return. Kimmila looks - not at the Candidates - but at the ruins around them, and beyond to the forest, and after a moment Varmiroth kicks off into the sky to circle above, keeping an ariel view of the perimeter no doubt, while still staying close enough to share with the other dragons his opinions. But…he's Western. Can he even Search for Fort?

Dtirae gives Th'ero a frown in return for the initial one put in her direction , before she's turning to consider the Wingsecond with a brief nod before the woman trudges over to a spot where she can oversee practically everything. Zuvaleyuth, of course, is on the Sands with her eggs and has given her blessing for her lifemate to leave the sands for this brief period of time. Her shoulders roll before the woman hunches herself up. "Ain't got any. Just wantin' this over and ta haul the fakers out." Glares are sent to a few of her suspected candidates. F'ian briefly startles the woman, however, drawing away the glares before it settles in place once again, but directed at the man. "Ain't all of 'em have been searched and, they're wastin' supplies."

P'rius salutes his Weyrleader, "Yes sir." He sends a silent command to Zhieth, and the blue pads forward a bit, "Seems to me that any sensitive dragon could tell us which ones don't belong and we don't want this to take all night."

Distracted as he was, Th'ero hadn't noticed Fi'an among the group of wingriders present and like Dtirae, is also caught off guard for a fraction of a second. Then his eyes narrow, not for the questions from the brownrider, but the winks he gives the Weyrwoman and Kimmila both. Really? At a time like this? "As Dtirae said, F'ian, not all the candidates are /true/ candidates. Headwoman Talica pointed out the numbers and while a large group /is/ good, one that is seeded with potential false candidates is not." But the Weyrleader doesn't elaborate on the why or how it was done. Could be he doesn't know! "Exactly, P'rius. Which is why I had some of you come out here… They're to tell us who goes and who stays and I want to be /sure/ this time. Hence the numbers." When Varmiroth takes wing, Th'ero pauses to give Kimmila a questioning side glance, but trusts the bluerider enough to assume that what she's doing will be for the best. "Alright. Have your dragons ready," Th'ero says to the assembled riders, giving them all a curt nod and dismissing them. To the candidates, the Weyrleader approaches and the last of the whispering comes to an end. "You're all here because it would seem that there was an… oversight when it came to your Searches. We don't know if this was purely accidental or not, but be assured that none of you are in any danger." Unless, perhaps, your one of the false ones. But he keeps his features neutral and his voice level. Betray nothing. "All we ask is that you comply and we'll get this done before the cold gets to us all. One by one, you're to set up. Depending on what the riders tell you, you're to follow a guard back to the barracks, or step aside and wait. Understood?" He waits until the Candidates respond, staring down those that seem to balk or fumble. Then the guards move in, having the group form a crude line as Th'ero steps back and gestures to the first candidate to move towards the group of dragons. And then the next, when the first's fate is determined.

Kimmila frowns a bit at P'rius. "It's more than that. It's /searching/ them again. Looking for…whatever it is our dragons look for. To make sure that even the best of liars can't get through." Unless they're legitimate. No one said all Candidates were angels. While Varmiroth circles above, the bluerider steps back and stands aside, ending up by Th'ero's side once the process gets moving. Varmiroth completes one more circuit and then lands, though he keeps to the edge of the groups, letting the Fortian dragons do the majority of the searching out. Until one thin, trembling boy steps forward. Big, doe eyed with shaggy blonde hair, he looks like he's on the verge of tears as the dragons begin to pay him close attention. "Please," he whimpers, "I just want to go back to the barracks…The dark…this place…" He shudders and his breath catches, and a few Candidates stir in line, wanting to go to his aid. Varmiroth's head lifts sharply then, but instead of going to help the boy, he snorts and his talons dig hard into the earth. « This one is no good, » he says firmly, making his first judgement of the night. Kimmila leans over towards Th'ero. "Varmiroth says there is bad in that one," she murmurs. "Whatever that means."

Zhieth moves towards the boy even as Varmiroth dismisses him, wuffling around the boy and even nuzzling him gently, but the soft sounds he's making are decisively positive, "Zhieth says he could be good, but he is bad. It's… he's more used to getting to know potentials," he turns to look at his blue, his lips pursing in thought, "I think he means he might have potential, but it's obscured by intent."

The boy stands his ground when Zhieth moves forward, but he whimpers softly, casting fear-filled glances towards the edges of the darkness. "Please," he whispers, his voice a bit stronger now. "I want to go back to Fort. Sir, ma'am," he says, looking pleadingly at the Weyrleaders.

Th'ero's mouth draws into a grim line when the first Candidate to go proves false. Not a good start and the Weyrleader's mood will plummet with the verdict handed down by the riders from their dragons. Even F'ian is shaking his head, the normally flirty brownrider looking a bit sober when the poor boy begins to beg and plead. "So his motives are… biased then," The Weyrleader mutters as he turns his head subtly towards P'rius, giving a nod to the bluerider. Kimmila is given a similar gesture, weighing their opions and the ones that follow from the other riders. Despite the boy's renewed please, Th'ero gestures for him to step aside, to where half a ruined wall still stands and where guards are posted in the gaps. Not exactly reassuring for the terrified candidate. "Step aside. You'll be returned shortly, but not until all are through." He says firmly, a touch cold. Once the boy moves (or is moved aside), the Weyrleader waves forth another one. This boy clears through, most of the dragons reacting with positive favor right off. He's the first lucky one to be led away back to the barracks and then the next Candidate steps up, a girl this time. She takes some time, but soon she's following the other before her. And so it continues. As the group progresses, some of the candidates are just silent and patient. Others though begin to fidget, some casting nervous glances about but no one runs. One girl though, seems almost smug from her spot among the group.

Kimmila frowns as she watches the blubbering boy move into the walled area set aside for the Candidates that are given 'no's. Kimmila's eyes narrow though, and she shakes her head. "He's faking," she hisses softly to Th'ero and Dtirae. "He's good at it, but he's faking." At least she's convinced of that. Looking down the line, she spots the smug looking one and her frown deepens. Moving away from Th'ero, she strides towards the girl. "What's got you looking so smug? Enjoy being up in the middle of the night."

Dtirae clicks her tongue as she watches, the wibbling of the first one to be selected to be pulled aside to the walled area. She doesn't entirely respond to the sounds of distress or pleas but nods her agreement to Kimmila. "Some are good at it." But, the rest goes unvoiced as Kimmila is honing on one smugging girl in particular. Her chin lifts and then she's rolling her eyes upwards. "'m wonderin' if they're all just stupid or this is some elaborate scheme." And under her breath, "tempted ta have Zuva just sit on the lot of 'em that're fakes." The woman has little sympathy for those with the intent of harming her Weyr.

P'rius' eyes lock on the smug girl as well. If they weren't wasting resources and generally being a nuisance, Pral would just let them all stand and let the hatchlings sort it out, but that's not possible. Zhieth, too, turns his attention to the smug girl, giving her a sniff.

Jaye leans against her shadowbeast, who is regarding the gathered candidates, "Whatcha think, Maehwa?" The scarred brownrider asks her 'mate who is busy focusing whorling eyes upon the smugness, taking a long sniff of the air.

"Could be a bit of both," Th'ero mutters to Dtirae, arms crossing as he watches one candidate after the other face the gauntlet. His mood doesn't improve at all with each that passes through, good or bad. The Weyrwoman's threat is met with a snort and a twisted smirk, "Would be a quick way to fix it, wouldn't it? Pity. As it is, I'm not looking forwards to what comes after this…" Then he's scowling, watching as Kimmila moves in on one particular candidate and all the attention seems to shift. Well that girl isn't looking as smug now when she has Kimmila bearing down on her and P'rius staring at her too. "No," she replies tartly, as any young teen is wont to do when they have a streak of rebelliousness to them. Outnumbered though and likely subdued by the anxious glances from her fellow candidates, the girl simply bites her tongue and looks away. When Zhieth approaches, she doesn't flinch at least but neither does she look comfortable. So much for lines and order, because the other dragons clue in and there's a brief debate among the riders. Eventually, F'ian is the one to signal Th'ero and the Weyrleader nods curtly. "You've passed. Move on." But the girl doesn't, not at first. She looks shocked before she can recover and shuffle off towards the waiting escorts to lead her back. On her way, she earns some pointed looks from those in the "pen" as it were and then she's gone. Some of the Candidates balk then, uncertain but a stern look from the Weyrleader have them moving again. Soon, the numbers begin to dwindle and to some minor relief, there seems to be more "good" then "bad" candidates. The fact that any exist at all is the true issue. Eventually all are filed through and Th'ero is glancing towards the assembled riders. "My thanks to you all," he tells them, sparing a glance to each. "You may return now. I apologize for rousing you all at this hour, but it was necessary. And remember… /none/ of this is to be shared. Not a single word. Understood?" And he means it too. He's likely committing names and faces to memory right then. Kimmila is gestured too, a signal for the bluerider to stay. As everyone disperses, Th'ero lingers long enough to answer any questions before moving on to the next (and far less unpleasant) task. The falsies.

End - Part 1

'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.