A New Path to Tread

Fort Weyr - Fort's Forests - Edge of the Forest
The dragon tail river weakens a fair bit as it continues on its inexorable course to the coast, though it's grown placid. As the river weakens, so, too, does the forest begin to thin out, with gaps between the trees growing wider and underbrush becoming more prevalent. Blackberry bushes can periodically be spotted from time to time, as can avians and firelizards of all manner of color. A few hardy species of flowers can also be spotted from time to time, low-lying clusters of red, blue, yellow, and white tucked in amidst the rest of the foliage. The forest smells start to mingle with the saltwater and sea scents from beyond, a curious blending of fresh growth and acrid tang. Meanwhile, the river continues toward the craggy edge of the coast, leaving the cool darkness of the forest behind.


The day is early yet, with morning barely past and the Weyr slowly awakening to face yet another day — one that so far promises to be overcast. At least there is no rain? The winds are cold, however and there is plenty of muttering over that to go along side the news of the continued illness among the herds. So far no more beasts have died here or outside the Weyr but hunting continues in the South as precaution. The Holds, however, do not fare so easily and while Major and Minor holds may find no issues when it comes to stores and preserved goods, the smaller and poorer cotholds will. Which means some turn to hunting and foraging, which, in turn… could lead to conflicts. Conflicts that usually are mediated by Harper Hall and the Holds said cotholders are beholden too but sometimes, sometimes, the Weyr is called in to aid. Which is what brings Th'ero to wait, mounted, on Velokraeth's neck as the ugly pale bronze's mind reaches out for that of one much younger. « Tovihasuth! Good morning. Are you both free? We may be needing your… expertise on a matter. We wait in the south bowl. Mine says if you can join us, that yours should bring tools befitting a little jaunt into the forests. » In other words: bring your hunting gear! Or at the very least, a blade.

Hunting? Yes, please! « Good morning, Veolkraeth! » the younger bronze returns, breezes as please and energetic as ever around high temple towers as he stretches and sits up outside in the center bowl. « We will be there soon! Mine is eager. » And so is Tovihasuth, but that goes without saying. Br'enn is never one to bring just a blade out into the woods. After a quick jaunt back to his weyr, the bronzer and his lifemate wing out to land in the south bowl, Br'enn with a bow and quiver slanted over jacketed shoulders. A salute is given Th'ero with a crooked bit of a smile. "Startin' the day off with a hunt, sir?" he questions a bit wryly, draping his forearms over the neck ridge in front of him. "Though y'weren't much for it."

« Excellent! » Velokraeth's reply is short but his mind ripples with honeyed wines and spice that give way to amusement and approval for Tovihasuth's promptness. Th'ero will watch as the younger bronze lands and returns Br'enn's salute. The Weyrleader's expression is a touch grim and certainly tensed. More bad news? "In a way? And I do enjoy a good hunt now and again." he replies with a smirk. He has no bow, only his dagger on one hip and his short sword on the other. "We've a bit of a situation out near the far edge of the forests towards the coast. Cotholder dispute, which Harper Hall is investigating but they asked for a neutral opinion." There's a pause, where Th'ero lets it sink in that they are to be the neutral party — to a degree. "One holder claims the other has been illegally poaching on his land. Accused denies it and claims the other has been poaching his traps." Obviously. One of those he-said-they-said scenarios. No wonder the Weyrleader drinks? "No one's been able to find evidence. Figured you may be able to aid me in seeing what's the truth behind this? At the very least… perhaps find these "traps"." And possibly condemn a man. How fun!

Br'enn's brows knit slightly as Th'ero elaborates on what dispute they're to go tend to, nearly blurting the question of why me? before Tovihasuth firmly blocks him from doing so. A brief mental exchange is had, ending with the lean-muscled bronze giving a snort right before his rider does, and Br'enn claps him on the neck. "I'll do my best, sir," the younger bronzerider says. "Figurin' out who's got the right of an argument hasn't always been my strong suit, but…Tov's gettin' me trained. Be honored to help." Especially since it seems as though he'll get to put his tracking skills to good use! And possibly condemn a man, which is, indeed, fun.

He better not show too much enjoyment in the condemning part or Th'ero may be concerned! For now though, he remains guarded and patient while he waits on Br'enn to sort out his decision with Tovihasuth. When they agree, some of the tension eases from his posture. "Good. We won't be the final say in the judgement of this conflict. We leave that to the Harpers. Depending on what we may find, however, will… sway decisions." Possibly. Without openly saying it, Th'ero hints of his displeasure of such scenarios. He's never liked them and even Velokraeth shows distain for all the lying and two-facedness bickering. "Velokraeth will share the image. We'll fly in low over the forests. No need to alert everyone what we're about," he informs Br'enn, while Velokraeth gives Tovihasuth the imagery he'll need for a successful jump Between. « Are you both ready? » This part should be a breeze!

It's a subtle enjoyment, really; someone is going to get what they deserve while another gets justice, and that satisfies Br'enn. It's the thought of being able to enable that to happen that appeals to him, not the condemnation itself. "Here's hopin' we find somethin' relatively obvious, then," the younger bronzer says, adjusting his gloves and slipping his scarf up over his mouth and nose before slipping on his goggles. The more obvious the evidence, the better. "Understood, sir. 'm ready for it." Tovihasuth gives a short rumble. « We are! » he affirms, muscles bunching in preparation to spring airborne as soon as Velokraeth takes off.

And therein lies the difference! "If there is one thing I have learned about Fort, Br'enn? Is to expect the unexpected," Th'ero remarks dryly. Was that a warning? Or is the Weyrleader just imparting some wisdom? Difficult to say and he does not elaborate, suddenly looking focused, if not eager, to be off. "Then on my signal, we'll go!" Velokraeth has already begun to move off to give both of them space enough to spread their wings in preparation of flight. Th'ero buckles his helmet, slips on his goggles and then raises his hand up to give the signal for them to take off. Velokraeth gathers himself and then springs aloft, wings beating swiftly and powerfully until sufficient height is reached and he vanishes Between to appear again low over the trees.

Br'enn braces for the jump between, as he always does - though it is less pronounced a thing now. Tovihasuth appears a length behind Velokraeth and to his left, and Br'enn blinks in the new light, peering all around below as the forests stretch out beneath them and picking up the major landmarks of this particular area for future reference. The younger bronze pair follows sharp behind Velokraeth and Th'ero, waiting for orders.

« Clearing to our left. We'll land there. » Velokraeth informs Tovihasuth in the first set of orders to come as the bronze tilts his wings and begins to glide towards the break of trees. The space is barely wide enough to fit the both of them and it takes some tricky flying on his part to avoid knocking his wings into a branch. « Careful you don't impale yourself! Don't know why these situations always seem to arise where there is no where for us to land properly. » Velokraeth snorts and gives himself a slight shake before he settles to allow Th'ero to dismount. Once on the ground, the Weyrleader will wait on Br'enn while he scans the area and his mood looks none the better than it was in the Weyr. "This clearing belongs to neither of the cotholders but it borders both their supposed stakes. Here," He extracts a map from his jacket pocket and passes it over for the bronzerider to review. On it is a rough sketch of this part of the Fortian forests and two different coloured sections have been outlined, one in red, the other blue. They run pretty much parallel to each other, broken by what looks to be a ravine. Neither are large stakes, both cotholds small enough to walk the entire length of within a day. No wonder there are squabbles!

« We'll be okay! » Tovihasuth assures Velokraeth, following the older bronze's maneuvers down into the clearing and landing neatly nearby, his slightly smaller frame proving advantageous here. Sliding down from his bronze's neck, Br'enn pulls down the scarf over his face and pushes up his goggles, taking the offered map and examining it closely. A frown of thought tugs at his mouth as he looks around. "Right. So where are the traps they're arguin' over?" he asks, glancing around to better familiarize himself with this stretch of woods.

« Good flying. » Velokraeth compliments Tovihasuth as he observes the younger bronze's maneuvering into the clearing. He's picked out a spot in which to settle and does not seem to mind the cramped quarters. Th'ero's eyes scan the trees again, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword. The other he lifts to point to the ravine marked on the map that Br'enn now holds. "From what I understand, it's within here. Logical enough spot for their bickering? If one of them is claiming the other has crossed the line… I'd assume we'd be following the markers." Drawing back his hand, he doesn't take the map back from the bronzerider, leaving it for him to carry (or so it seems). "We best start now, while the day is young. I'd rather not attract the attention of either of the families…"

Tovihasuth settles down in a spot of his own somewhat across from Velokraeth, hunkering down on his haunches and letting a slant of morning sunlight warm his shining hide much like a feline might. Br'enn continues alternately studying the map and glancing up for a moment, nodding. "Yeah, considerin' y'say it doesn't belong to either of 'em. How can they argue a line through a spot that isn' theirs?" the younger bronzer wants to know. Palming the map, he looks to the Weyrleader. "Yeah, we'd better," he agrees, gesturing for Th'ero to lead on. "Happen to know what sorta traps they are?" he asks.

"You'd be surprised just what the cotholders can find to argue about. Most of them are a prickly lot, well rooted in family traditions and all too stubborn for their own good." Th'ero mutters low on his breath, waiting for Br'enn to agree and at the gesture the Weyrleader begins to move towards the trees. The closer he gets, the more his stance changes. He seems wary, almost alert and on guard. Against what? Who knows, given that the Fortian forests can hold a myriad of things that could maim or hurt a rider. "Not sure. Snare types? Don't think they're profitable enough to invest in the larger ones." In the forests, nothing seems overly amiss. There are no signs of either cothold either or heavy human habitation as they're skirting the borders between two.

"Always did get that impression," Br'enn nearly mutters back. "Reason I never stayed in one holding too long." Another nod is given for the answer about the traps. "Gives us a clue what to look for, then. But if they were diff'rent…" He trails off a bit, slowing slightly and surveying the brush and low-hanging trees carefully. "What kinda game did they say was caught?" If that can actually be answered…Br'enn will be both surprised and relieved. "Or do the stories conflict?"

Th'ero smirks, "Smart of you to do so. Not all have that good luck." Such as himself! The Weyrleader isn't about to drone on about his complex past, however, at a time like this. He's moving at a cautious pace through the forests, slowed further when the underbrush grows denser. His answer is delayed to Br'enn and when he does speak, it's in hushed tones. "Conflicting stories or so the Harpers say. They both claim they only set the traps for tunnelsnakes and wherries as they've both got small herds about…" And from his tone, even he sounds doubtful that that is the full story.

Frowning a bit, Br'enn pauses by a bush with some broken branches on the western side, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "If we knew what they're sayin' they caught, I could tell who's lyin', most like," he grumbles. "But…here." He crouches down, fingering the broken branches and trailing his finger along one, coming away with a wire in his palm. "One snare. Somethin' a little too big got this 'un." He brushes at the dirt, peering at it closely until a track becomes apparent. "Whersport," he notes rising enough to follow it northward a bit. "Too big for the like of what they had set up there." His brows knit, and he rises, brushing off his hands. "Doesn't make sense t' set a trap for wherries in growth this thick. Snakes, though. That'd make sense."

Th'ero comes around to where Br'enn has paused, crouching down as well to examine the same broken branches and noting the wire as well. This is why he needed the younger bronzerider along! The Weyrleader is good at tracking and hunting humans, but when it comes to wild beasts? Not so much. "Whersport?" He mutters but his voice sounds surprised all the same as he stands again and scowls, looking further into the ravine. "What would they want with snaring whersport? If that was even the goal?" Not that he assumes they'll have answers to that and he sighs, "But all this trouble for a few snakes? You'd think they'd be thanking one another for riding each other of the pests…"

"Not sure that's what they were after," Br'enn says of the whersport with a cocked brow. "Just what robbed 'em of a trap. Stupid to try snarin' 'sports anyway; they're usually too big for a snare." The younger bronzerider stops again, his brows knitting once more. "One thing though, sir - if these traps're here, 'n' this area doesn't fall to either holder…doesn't that make tryin' t'figure it out this way a little stupid?" He shrugs, throwing up his hands a little. "Doesn't matter who set the traps; whoever gets to the quarry first in a neutral area, 's theirs, fair 'n' square, I'd say."

Th'ero knows nothing, apparently (which is not news at all). "Ah, I see. Whersports can rob traps then?" he asks, frowning heavily in thought. "Though I'd presume there'd be tracks of which to see…" He mutters under his breath, nodding absentmindedly about the stupidity behind trying to snare 'sports. It's only when Br'enn questions the whole disagreement between the cotholders that the Weyrleader focuses on him, one corner of his mouth twitching up in the vaguest of smiles. "Ah, and there's the truth of it. What does it matter? I said before, cotholders are stubborn and one claims that this ravine… belongs to him and always have despite what you saw on that map. So does he have a claim or not or should the ravine be simply kept as neutral and open to whomever wishes to trap and hunt it?" A free for all! "And if one is guilty of taking kills… was he guilty of poaching even to start?" Does the bronzerider have a headache yet?

Br'enn nods to Th'ero's initial question, then gestures at the subtle indentations in the damp earth winding in and out of the brush, but generally north. "There're tracks, but I'd say the thing just broke outta the snare 'n' ran off rather 'n robbin' it. No blood, no drag marks." He listens carefully to what Th'ero has to say about the entire ordeal, then rubs his forehead. Yes, he may just have a mild headache! "No," he says finally, making a short slashing motion with one hand. "'s a natural dividin' line, this ravine. A man can say whatever he wants, 'n' people'll pick 'n' choose who 'n' what to believe. If they want a neutral party, we can't just take 'im at his word, eh?" He palms the map again, brandishing it. "We oughta compare, I think. To other boundary maps at Fort Hold, say. If they all show the same thing, that's evidence against that one's claim datin' back Turns. Animals'll go where they please. The holders can keep to their side of the damn…line," he states, gesturing at the ravine cutting through the woods. "Not like it's obvious or anything. Whatever's hunted here goes to whoever makes the kill no matter what side they're from, y'ask me, sir." He hands the map to the Weyrleader, squaring to him a bit more. "If neither of 'em have evidence one way or the other, how can we, 'n' the Harpers, be fair? Just gotta go with what is obvious, I'd say," he concludes, tapping a finger on the map.

Th'ero nods his head and offers no other assumptions concerning the empty snare. His attention is on Br'enn now and he'll be quiet — almost too quiet — while the bronzerider explains his views on the entire situation. Not that the Weyrleader lets his guard down, since they're still standing in a ravine in the middle of the forests, keeping some awareness on their location. For all his listening though, his answer is likely completely unexpected and does not address a single thing that he may have asked of him. "You surprise me, Br'enn." Wait, what? "Walk with me." The offered map is not reclaimed, a quick gesture signalling for him to keep it. He's going to need it then? What for? Th'ero begins to lead him back towards the clearing where the dragons rest, his movements a little more at ease. "All that you said holds logical sense and a possible resolution to this… mess." Because, quite frankly, that IS what it is. No wonder he drinks that ale of his! "You've more than proven to me too that you've the right head for this. It takes a certain kind of rider, a certain kind of individual, to tackle a situation like this and not be undone by the frustrations over the complexities — which are often so convoluted and twisted its hard to make out what is what and whether it's founded in truth or all in lies." Kind of how Th'ero is speaking right now in complete riddles! That is, until he pulls out a knot, a Wingrider's knot and a badge. He should recognize the insignia as Phoenix's, the very same that Th'ero has stitched to his jacket. "These are yours now, Br'enn. M'icha's reports weren't far off the mark and while I was skeptical of his suggestion that you be tapped to Phoenix… You've proven me wrong. I think you'll be suited just fine, you and Tovihasuth both."

Br'enn blinks at Th'ero's initial words, his brow arching a bit dramatically in his bemusement. He quickly rolls the map back up and stuffs it in his jacket, the roll sticking out of the slanted pocket at his right hip as he follows the Weyrleader back the way they came. What? indeed! He listens, that undercurrent of puzzlement still evident in his expression…until they come to a stop, and that knot and patch are being handed his way. He stares at them for a second, a mental nudge from Tovihasuth and the pleased warble accompanying it from not far ahead finally persuading him to take them. "I, ah…" Br'enn blinks again, then gives a crooked smile and a bit of a chuckle. "Guess Tov's got me trained well, eh?" he says wryly, then gives his head a little shake. "'s my honor, sir. Can't guarantee I won't be a little restless at first, but I'm sure I'll settle. Just like at the beginnin' of all this." Switching the patch and knot to his left hand, Br'enn straightens and snaps a salute to the Th'ero, still smirking. "We'll do our best for ya, sir. When do we start?"

Velokraeth adds his voice to Tovihasuth's warbling, the older pale bronze rumbling and chuffing with what almost sounds like laughter. Well done, well done! Th'ero smirks but looks pleased when Br'enn takes the knot and patch. With his hand now free, he'll attempt to clasp the bronzerider on his shoulder in a firm grip. "I'd say so, but it's not all Tovihasuth's doing, I think." he drawls as his hand drifts back to his side. He chuckles softly, "Not sure if you'll have much time to be restless, to be honest. You and your clutch siblings are being tapped during a rather… unstable time. Much to do. Being part of Phoenix means you will not always be in the same place day in, day out. As for when you start?" Now there is a hint of a grin and his eyes flash with withheld laughter. "Right now. You ought to get to Harper Hall and tell those Harpers exactly what you told me and what you saw here in the ravine. Ask for Journeyman Garan. He will know of the case." How exciting! Th'ero walks out from the forests and into the cramped clearing then and while he has given his instructions, the key lies in certain words. Such as 'you'. Not we?

His smirk broadening to a grin as Th'ero claps him on the shoulder, Br'enn gives a small nod. Tovihasuth is responsible for much of the change in the new bronzerider…but not all, true enough. He's rather relieved to hear that there will be things to do from the outset…but right this moment? That catches him off guard a bit. "Wait, me? Now?" The snort that comes from the scruffy bronzer is most definitely of the bewildered variety. "Y'just tapped me, sir; they're not gonna give as much weight to what I say without you there, eh?" Even through his protests, Br'enn is still climbing to Tovihasuth's neck and strapping in, not about to argue if this is really what he's being ordered to do. "Or…do they really just respect the knot once they see it?" And the patch? Is he going to have to fish a pin out of somewhere to make it visible?

"Yes, now." Th'ero confirms in a calm and unruffled tone. He wasn't pulling Br'enn's leg! Protests or not, the Weyrleader doesn't budge on his orders and only smirks with a sidelong look sent to the newly tapped bronzerider. "So convince them that you know what you're talking about. I just heard you back there approach the situation with more calm and sense than men twice your age and triple your Turns of experience. Keep your head, show them respect and you will earn respect in return. Plus, you are a rider. Newly tapped, perhaps, but that knot and patch speak volumes. Remember that," And don't abuse it! Th'ero chuckles dryly. "You'll find out soon enough. If you do run into trouble though, do have Tovihasuth inform Velokraeth and we will come sort things out." Yet Th'ero seems pretty confident that he will not be needed. Could be he has a fair deal of confidence in this case being easy enough to solve as a "first" for Br'enn and does not require the Weyrleader as a shadow. "When you're done, you will report back to me. Understood?" He will wait for that confirmation or any further protest before mounting up and buckling in, while Velokraeth rumbles to Tovihasuth. « You've both done well! You'll be fine. This is only the beginning! Clear skies and good flying. We'll see you back in due time at the Weyr. » When the time comes, the pale bronze will spread his wings as much as he can in the cramped space and awkwardly launch into the air, lazily wheeling higher and higher before vanishing Between and back to Fort Weyr, leaving Br'enn and Tovihasuth to their path.


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