Fort Weyr — Feeding Grounds
Milling herdbeasts dot this lightly grassy section of the southern end of the bowl. Fences keep them neatly secured on all sides, even extending into the lake, allowing the beasts ample drinking water without granting them an escape. Dragons young and old come here to hunt on a fairly regular basis, though not all come at once of course. From here you can easily make out the entirety of the Weyr's lake as it spreads out south and southwest to the tumbled rubble of the far shore, while the rest of the bowl lies beyond the fences to the southeast, east and northeast.


Spring is creeping its way in to edge winter out, as evident by the melting snow and the unfortunate side effect of so much of it going at once. The bowls in the Weyr are constantly having to be dredged of deep pools of standing water, leaving behind a muddy mess. Even the roadways and pathways leading out to the wilderness fair no better. Several Thunderbird Wingriders have had their hands full this morning and a few spare volunteers to help a few travellers and holders out of a few jams. What few people know is that something is brewing, a concern that so far has not found its way into the whispered rumours of Hold, Hall or Weyr but the day is still young. It's late morning now and the Weyrleader has been absent since dawn. Th'ero and Velokraeth had business at one of the Holds, another long and dreary meeting but it was on their return flight, along with Kimmila and Varmiroth, that they came across a Trader wagon in need of help. Unable to free themselves from the mud the wagon had sunk in, it seemed routine enough until a few questions led to the discovery that the team of beasts the Traders had been using had suddenly taken ill, with one beast already dead and the other dying. The rest happened so quickly: Velokraeth requested Beastcrafters from Haast and they confirmed with the Weyrleader's grim assumptions. After speaking with the Traders further, Th'ero agreed to transport one of the Beastcrafters outside of Fort Hold, while Kimmila went on to Peyton with the second Journeyman so they could investigate the herds or try to pinpoint a starting point. The dead beasts in question were hauled away by a Haast Wingrider trained in Beastcraft and brought to where they could be safely examined. Tasks done, there is only one thing left to do now: return home. Velokraeth appears from Between but rather than glide down to land on his ledge, he turns instead to the pens by the feeding grounds. As he lands and Th'ero prepares to dismount, his mind extends outwards, seeking another. « Dremkoth? Is yours available? His presence is required down at the pens. There is troubling news that requires his Craft expertise. » Weyrsecond, you hath been summoned!

Kimmila and Varmiroth appear not long after Velokraeth, the tired blue landing heavily outside the pens, wings drooping as he settles in the mud. Kimmila dismounts and pats his hide, promising he'll have some time to rest as she approaches Th'ero. "What now?" the bluerider asks quietly, peering at their own herds. "Should we bathe first? Could we have carried it perhaps? Wonder if between killed it…"

D'ani's done wing shadowing today, this time with Coatyl Wing, riding with M'icha and the other AWLMs as the weyrlings practiced formations. He's watched the efforts, taking an interest in how well instructions were followed, how the young dragons flew, made mental notes to be jotted down to add to his daily report to Th'ero and Nyalle and spent the afternoon at his desk catching up on paperwork. He's just finishing a document when Dremkoth's night rises as a subtle mist at dusk to find D'ani's mind and pass the message along without 'sneaking up on him' lest that pen go awry in the signing thereof. The interruption is a welcome one. The weyrsecond listens while leaning back to rotate his neck. Craft stuff huh? Great! The pen is placed on the desk and he's grabbing his jacket even as he rises. It's not long before he's slogging through the mud approaching the pens. When he's within hailing distance of Th'ero and Kimmila, he calls, "Hey there. What's up?" And though no titles are used, he does salute them both. "Dremkoth said there was… troubling?… news." And though the bronze doesn't accompany his rider - he'll terrify the herdbeasts another day - he's keenly interested and so is listening in.

Velokraeth rumbles in concern for Varmiroth but the whuffle that follows sounds more encouraging. Shall they go find a ledge to sunbathe in and sleep? Faranth knows they've earned it… most of all Varmiroth! "I've had Velokraeth bespeak Dremkoth and ask if D'ani could meet us here," Th'ero informs Kimmila, only to frown heavily and glance with alarm towards the (now very distant — thank you to the dragons!) herds. Damn, he hadn't thought of that! "Doubtful? We didn't touch the beasts. At least… I didn't." Did she? He can't seem to recall seeing her getting close enough. "We'll see, we could be — ahh, there he is! D'ani!" There's no formality here either from the Weyrleader. He's been working along side D'ani for too long to stick to such rigid details as salutes or even use of their rank and titles. "Kimmila and I just got back from finding," Yet another! "A wagon mired in the muck the trails have become. Traders. Their team had fallen ill rather suddenly. One beast was already dead, the other dying… Figured you'd know a bit about it and if we should be concerned. The Beastcrafter's a Haast Wingrider brought in are alarmed enough that they're backtracking right now in the last Holds those Trader's had visited."

Kimmila shakes her head at Th'ero, looking down at herself. "I didn't either," she confirms, smiling warmly as D'ani approaches. "Afternoon," she calls to the Weyrsecond. She is quiet as Th'ero speaks, and then nods. "It was very sudden. And both at the same time…seemed…odd."
The sound of mud sucking at his boots as he draws nearer accompanies the first of the Weyrleader's words and D'ani nods a rueful understanding. That damn mud! The warm smile D'ani had for them both slowly fades as Th'ero goes on. Ill…dead…dying. He flicks a calculating look at Kimmla. At the same time? Quickly he interjects, "Could they have simply overworked the beasts trying to get through the heavy trails?" But no, there's more and that a Haast beastcrafter is alarmed seeps in. He flicks a concerned look to their feet, but his mind is working on other things, though his eyes remain there, in the mud at the other pair's feet. "Were they showing any symptoms?" he asks appearing vaguely distracted, his look bordering on troubled.

Th'ero grimaces and shakes his head almost immediately to D'ani's first conclusion, glancing sidelong to Kimmila as he does. "I thought of the same thing originally until I heard the dying beasts coughing. It sounded as sick as it looked." He goes silent, standing close to Kimmila's side while he allows D'ani to absorb the news and process it before he throws more at the Weyrsecond. "Aside from the cough? I hadn't… noticed." And he's certainly kicking himself now! "Kimmila, did you? I never got close — or could, really. Between the Beastcrafters and the Traders…" His attention was decided. "The Traders said their team had been fine heading out of Peyton and even prior to their winter stay outside of Fort Hold and within it. It was only on that stretch that they began to flag…"

Kimmila shakes her head slowly. "All I saw was the coughing…" They're a bit hopeless, aren't they? She looks at D'ani then. "Do you have any ideas?" Like a long distance diagnoses with coughing and death being the only symptoms. "And could it be on us right now?"

"Respiratory, sudden onset, sudden death," D'ani muses aloud, his frown deepening and his brows knitting. His concentration is broken by Kimmila's question, and he shakes his head to negate what he's about to say, "It almost sounds like Contagious Pleuropneumonia but I'd have to know if there were other symptoms like fever and labored breathing. It could simply have been an anaphylactic response to bad feed, but both of them succumbing at once? That's unusual. It'd be too late in the season for them to have gotten ahold of frozen alfalfa, but…" He directs a look to Th'ero, "the trader should check his nose bags and grain bin for mold." Back and forth his gaze is divided between them, "And someone should do an autopsy of the stomach contents for moldy feed or purple mint. Both are deadly." Brown eyes drift to those distant herds. "On us? Probably not but…" again he frowns. "How close did you get to them? Did they cough on you?"

Contagious Pleuropneumonia… what now? Th'ero does his best not to look entirely clueless as half of that goes right over his head. At least most of it he can grasp and the Weyrleader isn't left winging it entirely. He does, however, frown heavily at what sounds like even more dire news — or possible news. "We left the Traders with their wagon on the trail. They're waiting on another team to be driven from Peyton Hold, as they claim to know the Herder there…" Only now, by what D'ani is telling them, this may be a Very Bad Idea! "Only the beasts handler seemed distraught over the animals but he never once mentioned feed or checked the grain. Should we have the Haast rider involved question them?" Or will D'ani want to go in person? "I never touched them. Didn't have to, only got close enough to see." he murmurs while glancing sidelong to Kimmila.

Kimmila blinks a few times and then frowns, shaking her head. "So we need to go back," she says to Th'ero. "And ask the traders about the feed bags. The beastcrafters said they were going to do autopsies…I assume they'd check their stomachs?" Right? She shakes her head. "They didn't cough on me. I didn't get that close."

Th'ero must do a pretty good job looking intelligent, because D'ani seems to assume they're on the same page. A deadly virus that affects the lungs of cattle (at least cattle, but the weyrsecond hasn't specified yet whether it can cross-contaminate other species). The mention of more animals being brought to the site brings his eyes back to the Weyrleader. "That might not be wise. Until it's known what it is, they ought to take precautions." But it may be too late to prevent such a move by the beastholders of Peyton. He nods about the Haast craftrider, "Yeah, probably he's thought of it by now and he's keeping in contact with you, right? He's to tell you immediately if they found something?" Close enough to see brings a knitting of brows and he does a rapid mental calculation, muttering to himself, "With all this humidity droplets wouldn't evaporate so readily-" He interrupts himself to ask, "Were you guys upwind or downwind?" His concern is growing as he includes Kimmila in the question. "And did you land up the track or behind them and walk in the mud where they had traveled after dismounting?"

"I don't think we need to go back quite yet, Wingmate," Th'ero murmurs to Kimmila and just from his tone, he's now very hesitant about going back less it risks them both to further exposure and contamination. "We can only hope then," he begins as he looks back to D'ani with a grim frown and smirk. "That the Beastcrafter who went to Peyton has already raised the alarm. The Traders will have to figure out another way to get their wagon back or safely off the trail for now. Velokraeth is in contact with the Haast Wingrider's green, yes. Zuccith." In case D'ani would like Dremkoth to weigh in now with further instruction! "So far, the Traders seem preoccupied with their goods than the beasts. Velokraeth tells me," Th'ero says after a spell of distractedness as he speaks with his bronze. "That they haven't spoken to the handler yet." Shaking his head, he then frowns, puzzled by what D'ani asks next and, perhaps, looks at a loss of what to answer. So much for looking intelligent? "Kimmila, do you remember which way we approached? I was… too focused on the Traders and their wagon…"

Kimmila blinks blankly at D'ani, shaking her head. "I have no idea…" she admits. "Walked in the mud where they traveled…probably? I mean it was all churned up so it's hard to tell, but we helped them pull the wagon free…"

There's a wry snort for the traders' anxiety over profits. "I can go assist, if…" If Zuccith's rider needs the help. D'ani's offer is absently-given. His attention is, at the moment, elsewhere. Brown eyes travel over their leathers, ending at their boots as Kimmila says they helped pull the wagon free. His mouth twitches, pulling down at the corners. "Ah, I was afraid of that," he says gravely. "You should stay there. Don't move; I'll be right back." And he takes three long steps away from them, before removing his boots. Then with a grimace, he trot-slogs off towards that stone barn though ankle-deep mud. The socks are going to the trash after this, no doubt. It's but a few minutes before he comes splashing back. He's got a tank strapped to his back and a wand in one hand. Under one arm is a jug of something sloshing around - a liquid, and under the other, a large basin and a few large towels. "Let's get you two dis-contaminated, shall we?" Oh joy?

"We must have crossed the path where they had travelled. I had forgotten too that you had helped with the wagon…" Th'ero admits with an apologetic look given to Kimmila. He, of course, had been everywhere, walking back and forth between the beasts and the Traders. "Velokraeth will let us know of Zuccith's rider asks." Or if they decide that the Weyrsecond needs to get some answers fast. Only now D'ani is heading off? Th'ero frowns and only looks completely baffled when D'ani takes his boots off and goes slogging towards the barn in his boots. He looks to Kimmila helplessly. What is going on? "… any idea of what that's about?" he mutters. Then the answer arrives in the form of D'ani with a tank and wand. Th'ero's brows lift and he tenses, wary of whatever it is the Weyrsecond is carrying. "Decontaminated? But… we weren't near the beasts!"

If anything, the weyrsecond looks sympathetic over the worry clouding his eyes. "You could have had droplets land on your leathers from the coughing beasts," D'ani explains with a sweeping gesture to their riding gear. "And who knows how much landed on the wagon you touched while helping move that. If you stepped in their excrement, your boots could have some microorganisms - we don't know what yet - on them." He's pouring the contents of the jug into that basin as he speaks. "You don't have to remove your boots since you're not going in the barn." He eyes them. Please tell him you didn't go in there? "Then we'll mist your leathers with this disinfectant." That'd be what's in the tank. So… no stripping at least? "Then you should bathe thoroughly." His eyes sweep 'round, only noticing, "Ah, where did Velokraeth and Varmiroth get off to? We should spray off their feet too."

Never fear! Th'ero hadn't had time to go to the barn and probably thought better of it. He may know little about livestock but he's not clueless when it comes to diseases. Common sense, he figures, goes for both animal and human-borne illnesses. He'd misgivings about even returning immediately to Fort Weyr but there was no way around that. "How'd you know?" he drawls, sounding surprised, to Kimmila. Heeey, what wasn't she sharing? To D'ani, Th'ero is… convinced of the necessity given the detail in which the Weyrsecond elaborates. "You'd know best of the necessary precautions. If you think Kimmila and I are at risk then we'll do this." In Th'ero-speak it means: yes, I trust you. No stripping? Bah, where's the fun in that! Not that the Weyrleader would and there'd be a lot more fussing on his end, contaminated or not! "Velokraeth is on a nearby ledge…" Which brings a loud snort and huff from that direction. The pale bronze does not seem as cooperative.

Kimmila looks over to Th'ero. "I knew we might be contaminated and need to wash." She said as much. "Varmiroth is there as well." And the tired blue rouses himself, giving the bronze a firm nudge before he glides down. If /he/ can do it, tired as he is, surely Velokraeth can get his behind in gear. "Have to spray the ledge too?"

D'ani chuckles at Kimmila's 'I knew it!' but offers no quips. Instead he gestures to that basin. "At this point, I don't know if you two are at risk. Most likely not? But the Weyr kitties and puppies might be." Not to mention the occasional chicken wandering around. He'll wait until they step in that basin and swish off their boots, then direct them to, "Take a deep breath, hold it and close your eyes." Then he'll direct the mist over them head to toe. It smells faintly of vinegar, nothing horribly unpleasant. "That's a weak acid. It'll dry without harming your leathers," he assures them. The tank is handed over, and he gestures to them to do their own dragons. "Yeah, we should spray that ledge," he says ovr his shoulder while swishing his own boots. Those are going onto his feet after he peels off the ruined socks. "I think a dip in the lake for those two will be enough, but you two should wash. I… I think I'd like to pop down to Peyton, if you don't mind." His concern, you see, is growing.

Th'ero shoots Kimmila a silent look. Why didn't she say anything earlier!? He'd never have come to the feeding grounds, otherwise! Frowning, he starts when D'ani mentions kitties and puppies. "Could it? Or will it just be the herd animals at risk?" Why does he ask? Well, the Weyrleader's son happens to have a kitty and he's not about to indirectly be responsible for Boo taking ill (and possibly dying) and having to explain THAT to Kyzen. Th'ero sighs but does not protest D'ani's instructions and does as he's told, wrinkling his nose faintly at the faint vinegar smell. Taking the tank, he grimaces. "I see no reason why you cannot go ahead to Peyton Hold. Kimmila saw the one Beastcrafter there…" Meanwhile, Velokraeth is still huffily glued to that ledge but with much grumbling and complaining the pale bronze will move his ugly boxy butt and follow Varmiroth down to the ground below.

Kimmila /did/! She waits for her turn at the sprayer, watching Velokraeth land. "Could one of you spray the ledge? Varmiroth is too tired." The blue is almost grey with his tiredness. He just wants to /sleep/. "I think you should, D'ani," she murmurs. "The beastcrafters didn't say anything about any of this…" She gestures to her leathers and to the sprayer. "So."

"It depends on what killed the poor 'beasts, of course," D'ani hastens to reassure them both as he crams first one, then the other cold, wet, sockless foot back into his boots. "But some zoonotic viruses do cross between species - including humans." Before handing over the tank and wand to them, he directs the spray over the muddy ground in general, but who knows where they've walked or where the dragons landed? His mind is on Peyton more than here at the moment. "Hopefully it's just something specific to bovine. Precautions, however, don't hurt." Except for the indignity of being sprayed over by the weyrsecond? At least only those distant herdbeasts witnessed it. He frowns at Kimmila's news. "They didn't, hm?" Now even more troubled, his eyes unfocus for a moment and a large shape detaches from one of the ledges over the lake, gliding for the bowl. "I'll leave you two to spray your lifemates' paws and that ledge. I'll be in touch through Dremkoth." His smile, tight around the edges is meant to be soothing, but is probably totally negated when he adds, "You should be fine after bathing. Use redwort with your sandsoap if you want some extra disinfecting." A hasty salute is given the both of them and he turns and splashes off at a jog for the bowl.

"I'll take care of the ledge, Wingmate." Th'ero assures her, giving Varmiroth a concerned look for his greyed colour. "Does he need to hunt? Velokraeth could for him." he offers, only to give D'ani a sharp look. Jump to humans? GREAT. "… what of the dragons?" he asks in a lowered, almost growled voice. Not so much borne of his own anxieties but moreso wanting the facts so that when (not if!) the gossip breaks out he can squash any of that nonsense. There's a nod given to the new instructions and a faint smile that still doesn't quite edge past the tense grimace the Weyrleader has been sporting since returning home gives some reassurance that they'll be followed through. "Clear skies, D'ani. Have Dremkoth keep Velokraeth informed. I'm sure Nyalle will want to be hearing of this soon enough." Returning D'ani's salute, Th'ero turns to walk (carefully) to Velokraeth and Varmiroth. "Want to spray Varmiroth first, Kimmila? Then he can go rest."

Kimmila nods, watching and listening to D'ani, giving him her full attention and respect. "Okay. Thank you, D'ani. Clear skies. Good luck." She watches him go and sighs. "I hope this is nothing, wingmate," she murmurs, reaching for the sprayer. "I'd appreciate it if I could. He just needs to sleep, though he might wake up hungry later if Velokraeth wouldn't mind hunting for him then…"

D'ani takes about five steps through the mud before Th'ero's question reaches him. He slides to a stop, turns and his expression is unable to maintain one of smooth reassurance; it's tight enough to match Th'ero's. The weyrsecond shrugs and shakes his head, "Time will tell; they shouldn't mingle until we know more - and consult with the dragonhealers regarding the susceptibility of the dragons." He doesn't know for sure and that worries him. He turns and resumes his quick-slog to the bowl where Dremkoth awaits, mounts and lifts off, rising above the lip of the bowl where they turn towards Peyton before winking out into Between. In his hurry he's misses their conversation about hunting.