NOTE: This scene is Backdated and is the second half to the previous "Secretive" log. Most of what occurs here is not IC knowledge except for among the Weyr Leaders and the guards who were present. Plenty of gossip though surrounds it because there is a notable "drop" in candidates the following day.

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.

A cold and biting breeze picks up, gusting for a moment through the trees and sending some snow and ice cascading down from the branches above. In the ruins, the "false" candidates huddle together for warmth, a myriad of expressions peering out to where the guards stand silent and the darkness of the forest surrounds them. Some look frightened, other's simply concerned or surprised. Even the young boy who was crying earlier seems to have fallen silent for now. Then the air is alive with movement as one dragon after the other takes wing, returning to the Weyr now that their part in the secreted affair is done. Their riders move off too, either following the group of true candidates (who are likely relieved and muttering among themselves) and the guards sent to escort them or linger for a few brief words with the Weyrleaders. Soon though the ruins and the clearing are emptied, save for the Guard Captain, the Weyrleader, the few guards surrounding their "captives" and those few that Th'ero personally had stay behind.

From the scowl fixed now on his features, it's clear that the Weyrleader doesn't /want/ to do this, at all, but knows it must be done. The candidates who have returned to the barracks, he'll leave to be lectured and warned by the Weyrwoman not to go wagging their tongues about what they just endured and witnessed. It's as though the bronzerider is taking this whole affair personally, a slight against Fort, himself, tradition and simply honor. That someone would be twisted enough to try and sabotage the ranks and /almost/ succeed has shaken him, not that he's allowing it to show. Turning to Kimmila, he gestures for the bluerider to approach and he turns his back on their charges for now, wanting a few private words with her while Captain Breshir and the other guards keep watch. Let the false candidates freeze a little longer… he'll get to them soon enough.

Kimmila stands nearby, hands in her pockets as Varmiroth takes to wing once more, but not to follow the other dragons back to Fort. No, he's circling again, keeping watch on the perimeter. Though it doesn't really fit in with the blue's usual behavior. Perhaps it is Kimmila's suspicious influence that has him flying, being eyes in the sky for his lifemate in this troubling time. Gloved hand resting on her knife hilt, she steps forward at Th'ero's gesture, facing him so she can keep an eye on things over his shoulder even while he has his back to the false candidates. "What next?" she asks, her voice pitched low. Despite living in Western for turns, the cold does not seem to bother the Fortian native, hair whipped across her reddened face by the wind.

Varmiroth's behavior would likely be welcomed, given the circumstances and perhaps later, once Th'ero is not so overly distracted he'll remember to thank Kimmila for the thought. Suspicious influence or not, it's a wise decision and one the Weyrleader should have considered, but has overlooked in naive decision that candidates, even false ones, are harmless. The bronzerider notices her gloved hand on her knife and he gives a subtle shake of his head. You won't need that, he tries to tell her silently. The words off his lips, low and murmurs are entirely different. "We question them," he states bluntly. "I'm hoping this is enough to rattle them. But if not…" He leaves the sentence to drift off, leveling a look at the bluerider and from the grimness that sets his jaw and draws his mouth down into a thin line, it's obvious Th'ero is hinting that certain (and likely unpleasant) measures may be taken.

False Candidates might be harmless, but there are firelizards and there are ways of contacting those who /placed/ the false candidates here. And /that/ is who Kimmila is concerned about. Kimmila glances down at her blade and nods, but she doesn't move her hand, just the same. "Alright," she says quietly. "One at a time, then? So we can see if any stories don't match up?"

Just another reason why Th'ero values having Kimmila with him, Western rider or not, he /knows/ she thinks along the same lines as him and has similar suspicions. With so much weighing on him though, the Weyrleader would have overlooked having the firelizards spooked away or watched, if the damage isn't already done. The Weyrleader exhales heavily, scowl easing back as he considers the bluerider's recommended strategy. It's not the one he had in mind; likely he was thinking to just intimidate the whole group at once. Reaching up to scrub at his jaw, he makes a low and almost frustrated sound. "It will take longer. But it's a logical choice." He admits and steps forwards just enough to draw him closer to her side, as he turns and with a sharp gesture of his head, signals the Captain to join them. "There's been a change of plans," he tells Breshir and the man merely nods, thick brows knitting together. "What will you have us do then, Sir?" he asks, his gaze flicking between Weyrleader and bluerider, though there's an added nod to her. He remembers her from her involvement before and the fight in the camps and there is no hostility there, just acknowledgement and a silent agreement to her presence. "We'll conduct the questioning one on one…" Th'ero explains to both Kimmila and Breshir, "Over there." And the Weyrleader points to more ruins, where their selected target could be placed but cut off from seeing (or hearing) his fellows but leave them in sight. "Simple questions. Who and why, the usual and no coating it… Let's get this done before they recover enough to gather their wits."

Kimmila returns Breshir's nod with a faint, if grim, smile. Turning her head, she looks towards the other ruins and nods, approving of the space. "Right," she says quietly. With Th'ero so near, she reaches out to gently touch his back - brief, subtle, reassuring - and then she turns to head towards that space, going to scout it out before the first false candidate is sent over.

Breshir has turned away by then too, the Captain returning to his guards and issuing a few curt orders. There's the sounds of boots on stone and snow, as the ranks are shifted, two higher ranked officers moving off to the new location while the rest remain to guard their charges. Th'ero can feel the brief touch from Kimmila, even though all the layers he wears and the effect is instantaneous. Some of the tension leaves his shoulders and he tilts his head in just a way that it'd be hard for others to see him and he gives her a thankful glance before she moves away. The Weyrleader will remain where he is, waiting for all to take their respective places before he barks out the first order. "Send the first one in," And then he's striding towards the makeshift interrogation spot, taking his place by Kimmila's side while the Captain stands next to him. The first candidate winds up being that boy who pleaded and begged and the moment he's set before them, the tears begin anew.

The boy covers his face as he approaches, thin body shaking. "Please-" he begins, and Kimmila is having none of it. "Shut the hell up," she snaps, her voice firm and biting. The shock of it - of someone not buying into his tears - has him actually stopping and looking up in surprise. There's a brief moment - an instant - where he breaks character before his head drops again that betrays him. Betrays his falseness, and Kimmila snorts. "I don't have time for this piece of shit," she says to Th'ero, shaking her head. Good guard, bad guard?

Th'ero catches that break in character and instantly he's fixing the boy with an intense look, studying him with sudden wariness and caution. To Kimmila's briskness and blunt reply, the Weyrleader makes a low, angry like sound in his throat. "Easy, Wingmate." He tells her but pitching his voice lower only for her ears to catch. The bronzerider likely has no issue with her roughness, but he delivers his warning all the same. Captain Breshir has turned his head to give the bluerider a disapproving look for her handling of the boy and that is what Th'ero is trying to point out subtly without calling too much attention. The guard says nothing though, only letting his hand rest on the hilt of his broadsword, while similarly the other guards do the same. Subtle, but obvious in the sound of leather shifting against leather; let the boy see but don't make it an easily visible threat. "You may as well drop the act, boy." Th'ero tells the false candidate, once he's got the boy's attention. Good guard, bad guard. "Answer our questions and /maybe/ we'll let you go. Cooperate and this will be over soon enough." Don't cooperate and you'll wish you've never crossed his path. For a man of few words, the Weyrleader can convey enough in tone and body language alone.

Kimmila snorts softly, lifting her green gaze to meet the Captain's look, and she returns it with a faint smirk. Watch and learn, fella. The boy shifts uncomfortably and then when he looks up again, his fabricated tears are gone, but at the same time he suddenly looks much younger than he's been portraying. Twelve, maybe thirteen at the most. "I…" he stammers, sniffling a bit. "W-what questions?"

Just a child. Th'ero tries not to look as grim as his mood suddenly feels, keeping his expression set and neutral, collected and serious. "Who set you up to this?" The Weyrleader starts with just the one question, simple and blunt. Beside him, the Captain shifts a little, all attention on their charge now rather then Kimmila's behavior or attitude.

The boy glances from Th'ero to Kimmila, licking his lips nervously, and then back to the Weyrleader. "Ezris," he mutters. "C-can I go home? Ezris said i-if I did this, that I c-could go home with my family." Kimmila leans forward a bit and the boy startles, giving her a fearful look which she ignores. "Describe Ezris." "Um. He's…like…fat, but it's not fat. Round, but he's /strong/." "Hands?" "I…I…he wore gloves…" Kimmila leans back and turns to look at Th'ero, brows furrowed and eyes simmering angrily, but her expression otherwise neutral.

Th'ero holds up a gloved hand to Kimmila, a subtle warning gesture but also one to signal that he's heard and likely made the same conclusions. He'll likely discuss it with her later and when all this is done and he's back in his weyr, organizing his notes for the meeting he knows will be thrust upon them in a few hours when morning comes. Casting a quick and questioning glance to Breshir, the Weyrleader receives a shake of the head from the Captain. The name is not familiar to him. That leaves Th'ero to frown heavily, glancing away for a moment to gather his thoughts. Then he stares down the boy again, child or not. "What did this Ezris say to you? Did he threaten your family? Where are you from, boy?"

The boy shifts again, shaking his head. "From Silverspring, s-sir. Ezris came through, talking about starting a n-new cothold, and we went. My f-family went. To help. B-but we never seemed to s-stop. Then he…he got some of us together and s-said that if we did this…this for him our families'd be s-safe and we'd get good places in his new h-hold. B-but if we messed up, w-we'd be turned away… We had no where else to g-go, so I came h-here. I d-don't know where they are n-now, sir."

Questions lead to answers and answers lead to more questions and it's no different once the boy finishes stammering out his story. Th'ero remains silent for some time, thoughts working to absorb all that was said. While the Weyrleader is distracted, the Captain takes his turn to question their charge, his voice just as level and serious. "I know of Silverspring." He intones gravely, as if sounding disappointed in the boy and his families choice. Breshir also gives a quick look to Th'ero and Kimmila before turning back to the child. "Do you know how this… Ezris was able to acquire your knots then? And the forged documents for your Search?" There's an uncomfortable pause, as if the Captain is uncertain he should voice. "Were there riders involved with this?" That has Th'ero's attention and he's glancing sharply at Breshir, unsettling the man enough to have the guard shift his weight back on his heels a little, though he keeps his chin up and doesn't quite back down to the Weyrleader. It was a valid question!

The boy stiffens a bit, chin lifting as childish pride comes to the defense of his family. "The winter was hard! C-crops failed, w-we were not /happy/ in Silverspring! There was too many of us!" But then he's shrinking back down again after his outburst. "I-I don't know s-sir. We…we were given knots by Ezris a-and the p-papers." He gulps then, glancing around nervously. Kimmila clears her throat and he jumps a bit, giving her another wide eyed look before he looks upwards just as Varmiroth swoops ahead. He squeaks softly and bites his lower lip, shaking his head firmly. "I came on a blue," he finally blurts out. "F-from the c-camp t-to F-f-fort." Kimmila pushes to her feet abruptly and swears, kicking at a rock and sending it crashing into the underbrush.

Captain Breshir's expression only hardens with the boy's continued claims, his brow furrowing together. That alone has Th'ero suspicious when the guard doesn't acknowledge him right off to claim the crop issues as the truth. That is a Hold affair, after all, though the Weyrleader hadn't suspected the winter to be that rough. At least, the reports given to him seemed to have glossed over the issue. While his reaction to the boy's admitting of a rider's involvement isn't as noticeable as Kimmila's, Th'ero's features darken considerably and his hands curl into fists as his whole posture and demeanor shifts. Furious at the idea that a rider, Fortian or not, would be in league with this sort of behavior has the bronzerider's temper seething, held at bay only by Turns of control. But it won't hold for long. "The rider's /name/, boy? Did he have a knot?" he asks, his tone edging towards cold. He'll wait until it's supplied and then he gestures roughly, "Captain Breshir, escort him back. Bring another. We've heard enough from him."

The boy recoils from the display of temper, his face going pale and he starts to shake. "I…I don't know…I…it was night time…" he stammers. "No…no knot…just…a rider in leathers…and a blue…" He squeaks when the Captain escorts him back, his voice wailing, "I just w-want to go HOME!" When he's gone, Kimmila walks up to Th'ero's side and glares, hand firmly gripping her dagger hilt. "That man has broken too many families," she hisses, fury and venom in her voice.

The child's pleas are ignored all around, but they have a good effect on the other charges under guard. It's made them nervous, some already cracking from the wait alone. Breshir lingers long enough to spot the weakest of the bunch and drags the girl out. She's a little older and conducts herself a little more calmly but it's obvious that she's just as scared as the others from the way her eyes look about her surroundings. Th'ero is in a right foul mood now, jaw tensed and his brows furrowed heavily. "I don't recognize the name," he growls, "Shards and shells, now we have rogue riders to deal with? If this gets out…" No, he doesn't even want to think on that now. Kimmila's arrival has the Weyrleader turning to her and he reaches out with his hand to grip her by the wrist, easing her hand back from the dagger. "And we'll make sure he won't break anymore. We'll get this solved, Wingmate." He's trying to calm her, needing her to be grounded or his temper will just feed off of hers. "Be easy," Th'ero growls lowly under his breath, though he wants to let go of his control. The temptation is there, in his eyes and his tone. But then the Captain is returning with their next charge and the Weyrleader has to pull back, letting his hands drop to his sides again. The girl is given a narrowed glare, which she returns defiantly. The same questions are given, but she isn't so easily broken. It takes a few warnings and the approach of the guards closing in on her that finally breaks her. Her story is much as the same of the boy's, but the details change as do the names.

Kimmila shakes her head firmly. "It's Laris. Ezra. Ez-ris. The bastard." When his hand grips her wrist and his tone warns, she glances at him and with a start, realizes the place she needs to play in this. Whoops. Taking a slow breath, she closes her eyes and calms herself, drawing on Varmiroth's naturally easy going nature until she's calmed. "We will," she says, calm but firm in that as she returns his squeeze. She hangs back during this interrogation and the next, simply listening or asking extra questions when they come to her, maintaining a simmering but calm anger all the while. Control tightly kept until all the false candidates have been questioned and she's looking to Th'ero to see what they're going to do next.

He doesn't want to have to force her to change or calm to suit his needs and somewhere deep in his mind he feels guilty for it, for how much Kimmila has to do just to keep him from flying off the handle. Later though, later when they're in private he'll be able to drop those guards and they can both feed their tempers off each other. As they always do. Th'ero keeps a close eye on her while the interrogations continue, though not to keep tabs on her location but more so for subtle reassurances. Most of the questions come from him, while additional ones or cross references are added in as need by Captain Breshir. Eventually all are questioned and they are left with more unanswered questions then before as more of the tangled web unweaves itself before them. Dawn is edging closer and the false candidates are exhausted and cold from their ordeal, huddled almost pitifully together in their "pen" among the ruins. Th'ero stares coldly at them all, mouth drawn down in a grim set line. "Sir?" It's Breshir who addresses him and the Weyrleader looks up at the Captain in silence. "We can take over from here. We'll bring this lot to the brigs, where they can be watched. Best we /all/ get some rest. Leave the judgment for tomorrow. Most of 'em are just children…" Th'ero snorts sharply, "I haven't forgotten. Doesn't excuse them. See to it that they're made comfortable then. I'll send word to you when the meeting is set to begin." And then the Weyrleader dismisses him with a curt nod of his head. The guards move then, rousing the group despite the protests that fall on deaf ears. The Weyrleader doesn't move for some time, even after the last of them vanish into the gloom, transfixed as he glares out to the darkness of the forests.

Kimmila steps up beside him after watching the guards move off with the false candidates, and she reaches out to lightly touch his back again, exhaling long and slow. Glancing sidelong at him, she follows his gaze into the gloom as Varmiroth lands behind them, sniffing about the ruins with a low rumbled growl. "Well. Fuck."

Th'ero starts a little at her light touch, hand instinctively going for the dagger tucked and hidden at his side. He had slipped away there for a moment, deep into his thoughts that he lost touch of where he was. When he focuses on Kimmila, he relaxes and his hand drops, but only so that his arm can slip around her. This point leaves no one in the ruins but them and so the bluerider is pulled close to his side. "This is far more complicated then just a simple holdless man on the run." He mutters darkly and a touch more eloquently then Kimmila's response. The wind picks up again and the bronzerider hunches his shoulders against the biting cold. "Come. No sense lingering here," And then he'll move forwards, his steps a little stiff as he leads them both back into the Weyr and back to his weyr. By now the hour is still too early to rouse those needed, so they have time to think… and to prepare.

Kimmila frowns when he reaches for his dagger, but she doesn't move away from his side, confident he'll figure it out in the end. And he does. "It is," she agrees with a frown. As he starts to walk, she nods to Varmiroth. "Would you rather ride?" she offers, the blue lowering his head and rumbling low to the Fortian Weyrleader and his rider's Weyrmate.

Th'ero pauses when Kimmila nods to Varmiroth and offers and the Weyrleader considers it, likely speaking privately to Velokraeth in turn. Eventually, he gives a subtle nod of his head. "If he doesn't object," But the blue is rumbling then, lowering his head and the bronzerider tilts his head up to acknowledge him with a faint smile. He knows better then to talk directly to him, Weyrmate's dragon or not. Instead, he turns to Kimmila. "Thanks," he murmurs stiffly, letting his arm slip from around her as he allows the bluerider to lead the way.

Kimmila chuckles softly, patting Th'ero's arm as he moves away. "You can talk to him," she says. Just for future reference, as she's climbing up into the straps and buckling herself in before offering him a hand. Once he's buckled in and ready, the small blue kicks into the air and makes short work back to the Weyrleader's ledge, where he crouches so they can dismount. Kimmila lingers on the ledge to pull off Varmiroth's straps, folding them in a corner before she moves inside.

Th'ero only grunts softly when Kimmila chuckles and pats his arm, likely tucking that bit away for future reference. It will probably take some time for the Weyrleader to warm up to the idea of speaking directly to Varmiroth, not that he means the blue offence. It's just… awkward. The bronzerider mounts up easily enough, used to a dragon much larger then the blue. Buckled in, he uses the short amount of time the flight takes to cool is temper just that fraction more, but whether or not it'll last is another thing entirely. When they reach his ledge, Velokraeth is within his wallow, oversized head raised and watching them with intense curiosity. Th'ero doesn't linger in unbuckling himself from the straps and dismounting and he'll even pause from storming inside for once. He'll wait with Kimmila, either helping her store the straps or simply keeping silent company if she turns away his help. Once they do venture indoors, the moment the door is closed and locked behind him, the bronzerider loses the masks and guards. Here, he will be himself. "I should have gutted him when I had the chance," Th'ero mutters lowly, his features grim and the anger and frustration simmering beneath the surface flashing in his eyes. "Rather then try to fight him down and take him alive. Then we'd not be in this mess!" His weyr isn't likely helping the mood much. Only a few of the glows are opened and even then the shutters are low, casting a rather dismal light over the rooms. No fire either, so the place is cold. Cold and dark.

And there they'll talk, where Th'ero can unwind and vent and similarly so can Kimmila as they share a few drinks and then share each others company before sleeping to what few hours remain before the Weyr begins to stir as dawn arrives.

'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.