Fort weyr: Ancient Tunnel

This tunnel twists and turns, interspersed with columns created when stalagmite met stalactite. The columns consist of compressed layers of interspersed white, brown, and blue, much like the many layers of a candle melted down. Line of sight is broken, and most of the tunnel is hidden in deep shadow that writhes no matter what light source is used. Small paths scatter about, branching out into forks in the road, where darkness roams and direction can be quickly turned about. The use of caution must not be taken for granted. Behind, toward the west is the exit - ahead is a maze of shadows and rock, where dangers may lurk and the promise of return may be slim.

It's few that dare to come down this way. It's dark, it's creepy, it's confusing, and getting lost is all too common. Which is why it's the perfect place to hide from everyone else, and probably yourself, too. There are footsteps in the dust, and the faint green of a glow basket that wasn't quite closed completely vaguely illuminates a figure leaning up against one of the many columns. One leg is drawn up at the knee, the other is stretched out. It's definitely a girl, that much is evident from certain physical markers. Her head is tilted back into shadow, though, and it sounds like… she's crying? Softly, and to herself, but the sniffling and hitched breaths could only mean that.

When Borodin was seven turns, he got lost under the Hold for almost two days. That time, his presence in the tunnels wasn't of his own doing - but by the time he got out, he wasn't afraid of the dark anymore. Maybe that explains what he's doing here now, walking quietly along with a half-shielded glow. He pauses as a sound comes to his ears - dripping water? No. Not unless that's a wild glow, and a very strange rock formation. He hesitates, then bites his lower lip and steps closer, the dance of the light making his presence known in a way his breathing and awkward 'Uhm' do rather poorly.

Zapallie would hear his footsteps, if nothing else. She sits up straight, fumbling for her glow basket and managing to knock it over instead. "Who's that?" she calls, pushing to her feet. So mistrustful, this girl, already taking on a defensive posture despite being blind thanks to her spilled basket. It puts the light to her back, helping neither of them.

Borodin stops, mid-step. The voice is… he's not sure if it's familiar. The tunnels echo weirdly. But… "It's Borodin," he calls back, and then there's a moment of hesitation that stretches out as he tries to think what to say. Left unchecked, it's probably going to reach awkward silence without him having figured anything out.

"Oh. You." Zap sighs, and promptly leans back against her column, rubbing a hand across her cheeks. "What do you want?" And then, restlessly, she crouches to begin picking up glows and putting them back into the basket.

"…yeah," goes Borodin. Only him, and really, who would see someone like him as any sort of threat? He makes his way closer, catching glimpses of the planes of face in the scattered glow light. That, plus the voice… he nods slightly, but he doesn't turn to flee. In fact, he takes another step closer. He's close enough now that if they both reached out an arm, they could touch, and now he stops. "Just, I heard you."

Zapallie sounds like herself, only raspier. Still with the same old nasty edge. "Oh good. You can go tell everyone about how that mean girl nobody likes was crying all by herself in some dark tunnel. You'll be a hero." She slaps the cover back over the glows and by the scraping sound, slumps down again against her column. "Of course, if you shoved me down some dark hole down here, they'd probably give you a medal and a seat of honor at the Weyrleader's table."

"Probably," says Borodin. "But I haven't seen any good holes, and I'd just fall in after like a cork." He turns, leaning back against the wall himself. The glow by him is a vague illumination, and after a moment, he flips it closed. "Besides, I've seen worse. It's not like you said anything that wasn't true."

Zapallie snorts, and she almost sounds amused. "Well, at least you have a sense of humor about it." She sighs, scrubbing at her face. "No. I never lie. Not about others, not about myself. That why you didn't stand up for yourself? Because you thought you deserved it?"

Borodin is quiet for a moment, thinking about the question. Honesty prompts the urge for honesty, perhaps. "Maybe. I mean… what's the point? I'm not some kind of shining star. I'm a cook. I'm not even a bakercrafter. I am fat, and if I really didn't like it, I'd do something." He snorts. "Guess, really, what I am is a coward."

"I think you're cute," says Zap, shrugging in the darkness, jacket sighing against stone. "Like a little dumpling, I suppose." It's about as kind as she gets. "You are a coward," she agrees, "but no more than me."

Cute? Cue the surprised silence, Borodin's breath going still for a moment before the comparison to a dumpling means he lets it out again in something between a chuckle and a sigh. The other part gets silence of a different sort, the shift of jacket and his weight as he looks in the darkness, then a settling back again. "You? But you were with the renegades. You don't take anything from anyone."

Zapallie laughs, low and wry. "I didn't know they were renegades at the time," she admits. "And I turned tail and ran as soon as I did." She's silent about the second bit. Finally, resigned, she says, "Yes I do. Khyonai tripped me yesterday night, at Inyri's turnday party. Nobody even asked if I was okay, not even the people I kind of thought were my friends. I'm tired of being nasty. Problem is, I don't know how to stop."

"Oh," Borodin says to the revised story of renegades, but that's it. Maybe he's too busy thinking it over to say anything else, but the shift of his weight as she begins to speak again shows he's listening. "Y'know," he says. "Nobody ever asks me that either. If I'm okay, I mean. I guess they just think I'm not… and that you are." He sighs, and there's a thump as his head goes back against the wall.

"Maybe… " but she doesn't sound convinced. "Er, why /are/ you down here?" Zap asks. "Aside from stumbling upon me being shameful and wimpy where nobody can see it."

"I like tunnels," says Borodin, and shrugs. "It's dark. It's quiet, except for the tunnelsnakes. I just…" A moment of silence, then he goes on. "I saw Fellan, when I was leaving the kitchen. I don't want to be niced at for Abbey's sake. So I came down here instead."

Zapallie grunts, "Fellan is a nastier piece of work than I am." She exhales. "You know, Abbey and I worked it out. And every time he comes around he pisses on my head… I'd like to pop him one right in the nose. He doesn't even know me." Not that Zap's ever needed to know someone to be mean to them.

Borodin sighs as Zap describes Fellan, and there's another little thump of his head as he stares up toward where the ceiling must be. "Abbey means well. She's just… yeah." A little scuffling sound, as his fingers stretch out across the rock. "Him… I just feel like he wants to make me happy for her. I'd kind of rather he just ignored me. Or even punched me. I don't want… him using me."

"I know she means well. I've never held anything against her. Wish /you/ had punched me, but whatever." Zap shifts, and the sound of her gets nearer until suddenly her hand finds a knee. "Ah, there you are!" moving around in the dark, it's tricky. She thunks down next to him. "Stop banging your head. You'll go stupid. Anyway…don't let him use you, then."

"I punch like a girl," says Borodin. Only, y'know, not like any of the girls in this conversation. Like a theoretical, archetypal girl that is a total wussy and can't punch worth anything. …yet another of the reasons why Zap would have preferred that punch to the one she got! Even with the warning of her motion, he still makes a muffled little squeak at the touch to his knee, followed by another thump of his head just in time to be told not to do that. He's quiet for a moment, then, "I'll go stupid if I want to." Sothere, hah. He's standing up for himself, see? For his right to beat himself up and be an idiot. "…but okay." He sighs instead, using force of will to not headthump. "I don't know how not."

Zapallie chuckles. "No you don't. You punch like a boy who hasn't thrown a punch before. Give yourself a little credit." Her hand doesn't linger, especially since he's squeaking. "I didn't mean to startle you," she says by way of apology. "I didn't want to sit on you, though." Silence follows for awhile. "Don't know how not to bang your head on the wall?"

Borodin laughs, the sound startled out of him. "Probably not, but I can try." Head-banging is so difficult to avoid, after all! It's just like a compulsion. His head moves again, but it's the back and forth of a shake instead of a thump. "I shouldn't have been startled. I just… well, that's me." He sighs, and he slides his slow way down the wall to plop his butt onto the stone. "Tried that once. The punching thing. Didn't work."

"I could put you in a little helmet. You'd look right special then." There's a smirk in Zap's voice. "Hey, since we're here. Want to explore? It's not like anyone will miss us." Which probably means when, if, they get lost, it'll be a sevenday before anyone even thinks to look for them. "Keep you from banging your head." Just not your toes, or your knees…"Who'd you punch?"

A little padded helmet. It'd be adorkable. "…maybe not." There's the sound of amusement back in Borodin's, though it's gone soon enough. "Dogen. Back at Fort. They dumped me back by the well after." He shrugs, and pushes himself up to his feet again. "Yeah. Let's explore. We can find a more secluded spot, for next time you need to sob." The wince at the end is audible, like he's waiting - just waiting to be punched for saying it, and he wouldn't even blame her in the slightest.

Zapallie doesn't punch him. Instead, she laughs. "You're alright, Borodin." She finds her basket and throws the lid, illuminating the cavern about as far as the next bend. "Better open yours, too. And try not to fall, or wander off from me."

No punching. Awesome. Borodin is illuminated displaying a grin that's at least half relief, but also includes other parts of grin, which explains why it's so wide. In the light of the glow, he bends to pick up his own and flip it open. "Yeah. I don't know these at all, really." And she does? Details. At least exploring caves means moving at a careful walking pace, so as long as they don't encounter too many stairs, he should be okay.

"Nah, me either," admits Zap, but she doesn't sound too worried about that. "I don't suppose you have anything to mark our way, do you?"

Borodin pauses, holding the glowbasket in one hand while he digs in his pocket. "No breadcrumbs…" he says, reachreach. "…not that that story ever made sense." Reverse the hand holding the basket, dig into the other pocket. "Nope. Nothing."

Zapallie lets out a slow breath. "Well. Just don't take any turns, then… If we have to take a fork, I'll leave a dagger and point it the way we came." She frowns. "If I run out of knives, I guess we turn back."

Borodin nods, but after a moment… "How many knives do you have?" he asks in a wondering tone. "I mean, I've just got my one eating knife, and getting a good blade on that was expensive. I don't even want to know how much a chef set costs."

"Most days? Seven. I have others, though." Zap reaches up with her free hand and rubs her nose. "I wouldn't know. I've never tried to buy a butcher knife. Bet I'd look wicked with one in my belt though." she laughs, the sound bouncing down the chamber. "Alright then… let's go." And so carefully she sets off, picking her way.

Borodin looks sideways at Zap in the light of the glows. Seven. Where exactly do… His gaze goes up and down along her, then he shakes his head. "I… suppose." As they start moving, he adds in a contemplative tone, "I'd be more scared of a boning knife, personally." That cheerful thought it put on hold as they cotinue on, his basket raised to check out the walls… and the rubble. He casts a worried look at the ceiling. "…is it going to come down on top of us?"

"That's a good point," agrees Zap thoughtfully, probably pondering the merits of a boning knife. Where, exactly, she might have those knives…well, let's just say a few of them can only be found by getting really friendly with her person. She turns her gaze towards the rubble. "Probably not. We're not very far in just yet. That's an old fall, it's half-cleared, see? Look, you can even get through it." She crouches down, trying ot see through the crawl space. "Looks like there's a door or something. Well. I'm not about to squeaze through there. Looks like we can go left(north) or right (south). Got a feeling about either?" the first of her knives is removed, pulled from her boot and ready to be used as a trail marker.

Borodin nods as he lets himself be reassured, and while he leans in to look at the crawl space… he also goes, "Uhm," at the prospect of himself trying to scramble through it. Fortunately, Zap's not suggesting that, and he steps back from the rubble to lift his glow and look at those two options. Left… or right. Left… or right. "Left," he says, and once she's got the trail marked… he leads the way to who-knows-what.

Zapallie lays the knife down with its point directed west and heads northwards through the tunnel, following Borodin's lead without question. She toes the pile of junk, looking for anything useful. She picks up a hammer head that's slowly being eaten by time. "Can use this to point." Holding this in one fist she follows the cooridor as it turns westward.

Borodin stops for a moment to peer at a part of the wall that either has writing, or has been scratched up over the centuries. Or both. He still can't tell by the time he turns away and continues on after Zapallie. "I wonder why these weren't closed off…" he wonders as he follows the curve of the tunnel. "They did that at the Hold, closed off tunnels."

Zapallie shrugs, "Um.. maybe there's something through here they need to have access to?" That's about as much as she can hazard. "Are you from Fort Hold?" She turns her face, feeling a breeze. "Hey…do you feel that? Fresh air!"

"Might be," agrees Borodin as he walks along. "But why not keep it in use, then?" It is a mystery for the ages, or at least one they don't happen to know the answer to. "Fort Hold, yeah. Born there. Been there pretty much my whole life. I'll… be going back, I guess, as soon as Abbey writes that letter back for our parents." He's got a frown about that, for some reason, and his steps are more of a shuffle… at least, until the distraction of fresh air. "Yeah, it- oh! What if things are sneaking in?" He takes a step back, and his foot lands on a small piece of bone with a crunch that makes him shudder.

Zapallie tips her head. "What letter?" So nosey! "Do you /want/ to go back? It doesn't sound like you exactly had the best time there." She hears the crunch and turns, but it's only him stepping on bones. Laughing, she says, "Yah, you mean like rats? I think the Weyr knows. Come on, let's see where that breeze leads!" Fresh air, ho!

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.

"To tell them… that she's not going back, I guess." Borodin shrugs. "If I don't go back, then what? Try to stay here?" He shakes his head, and then saves his breath for the stairs. Borodin's hardly in the best of shape, and he's panting a little by the time they make it up to… outside? Well, not quite, but they're certainly not in a tunnel anymore. "Huh." He steps forward, out from under the roof to stare up at the sky.

Zapallie is happy to help haul Borodin up the stairs, emerging from that dark nook into the air. "Wow," is all she says for a time. She covers the glow basket, preserving the charge on them. "I think this may turn into a longer walk than we had planned," she says, looking back down into the darkness and then forward towards the trees.

"Down is easier," says Borodin, but the point is taken. He turns to the forest, kicking a small stray stone. "I'm not scared of rodents, but…" Suppose there are renegades or something? "…fine." He squares his shoulders from round and strides out.

Zapallie will protect him! Being all noble and stuff. "Er…" she says as they come to another choice. "So, which way, do you think?"

Which way? Borodin was all for 'back the way they came', which has the neat advantage of they already know which way to go. He gives Zapallie a look, but that's all he manages before applying himself to the problem as presented. "Well," he says, then pauses a moment to think it over. "I think I hear something that way. Like… water? We could try that…"

Zapallie looks back at him dubiously and shrugs. "Water, sure." What's the worst that happens? Or right, they either follow it for miles the wrong way, or drown going across it. Oh well, at least Borodin will float, maybe she can use him as a life preserver. "This is kind of fun, right?"

Now you're thinking like a pessimist! It'll be like a scene from Moby Dick. Great White Whale, ho! Borodin waits for a moment to catch his breath. "Fun?" he repeats, and then he has to think about it. "I guess it is," he says, and promptly starts off through the forest.

Zapallie has to actually move to keep up with Borodin as he takes off for the sound of water, stomping on foliage with her big old boots. "Do you mean it?" she asks as she catches up, looking at him suspiciously. And then. "Oh hey, there's a sign I think." and then she sighs, "And it's pointing back the way we came."

Admittedly, Borodin can't keep up a pace like that for long. Huff, puff he goes as he finds the water. Peaceful, isn't it? He looks out over it, and to that back-pointing sign with a frown, before bringing his gaze back to Zapallie. There's a little bit of redness in his ears, and unlike the pink in his cheeks, it's probably not from fresh air and exercise. "Yeah," he says. "I mean…" He looks away, out over the river again. "I'm not really good with people, okay? But I'm pretty sure, if you're going to stay stuff about me, you'll say it to my face. And… that's nice. So… yeah. It's been fun."

Zapallie tips her head and laughs, looking down. "Yah, I'm not so great with people either. I think… you're the first person I've met since I was a kid who wasn't mean to me, or made me feel bad for being an ass…" She frowns. "I'm sorry…by the way…that I'm a jerk. Sometimes it just comes out. And you're kind of an easy target." She can stand a minute to appreciate the water and the trees and the easy peace of this spot. "This is why I lived alone for two turns. Maybe I'll just build myself a cabin out in the middle of nowhere where nobody can find me. I could have this all the time."

As Zapallie looks away, Borodin's gaze ends up drifting back onto her again. He watches her a moment, then looks up at a bird twittering in the trees. It's staring up into the branches that he actually speaks. "Yeah. It's okay. If I was smarter, I'd stop caring. Musta hit my head too many times already." There's a smile for that, though he keeps staring away at nothing in particular. "Never have managed it, to stop caring what people think. That's why it hurts. I mean, I know I'm fat. I don't care. I care… that other people care."

"Never managed that one either," Zap admits with a sigh. "That's why it's easiest to just hurt everyone else first. It gives them a reason to be mean to me, and then I don't have to feel like crap." She looks over at him when he's looking away and then nudges an elbow out. "Meant it. I think you're cute. And if you /do/ decide you want to lose the weight…" she smiles. "Well, that offer was good, too." And before they can have an awkward embarrassing moment over all that, she crams her hands in her pockets and turns back down the trail to the forest.

Borodin appears to be giving Zap's first-strike strategy serious consideration. He's contemplating it, right up until the nudge. He doesn't squeak this time, but he does look down at her, blinking, and as she speaks, his ears are definitely pink. "I, uhm, ah…" is all he manages to get out before she's leaving, and he stares after her for a moment before pushing himself up and scurrying after.

Zapallie returns to the fork they left off at and takes a deep breath, raises her eyebrows expressively, and determinedly sets off down the path they didn't take. "It said the weyr was this way, so if we just follow this, we ought to get there." Theoretically.

"We… could go… back the way we came," offers Borodin in the tones of one expecting to be ignored. It's not helping his case any that he hasn't quite caught his breath, but as Zapallie sets off he trundles his way determinedly after her. After all, he can't leave her alone in the woods! That wouldn't be chivalrous. She and her six remaining knives need protection.

"You could go back that way if you want, but I'll be mad if I have to come find you." Zap is painfully honest some times. "Besides, I didn't like going up those stairs, and going down them would be even scarier. I'll get my knife back later, it's not like anyone's going to go find it and take it." Probably the next time she goes to have a good cry alone down there.

Strangely enough, the idea of a mad Zapallie makes Borodin smile slightly. Not patronizingly; an actual smile, almost comfortable looking. Maybe it's not that surprising, when you consider who his sister is. He nods at the other part of things. "All right. I'm coming."

Zapallie looks backwards to make sure he is before disappearing down the fork. "Keep up," she says gruffly.

Keep up, she says. Borodin would mutter something impolite, but he doesn't have the breath left over for it. Instead he scrambles along, huffing and puffing fit to draw a pack of wild canines down on them. At least the trail gets more even. If it were level, that would be even nicer. He pants as they come to the fork, and over to the signpost. Directions! A way out of here! …he's not leaving the kitchens for a week.

Zapallie also heads for the signpost and reads each option. For a moment she looks longingly to the west, and then north, and then with resignation heads towards the third option that proclaims the weyr is ahead. She glances sidelong at Borodin and slows her pace considerably without a word.

Huff, puff… huff… and as Zapallie slows, Borodin actually manages to catch his breath and keep it there. He's still moving more than he's accustomed to, but at least he's capable of things like speech. That, and asking questions he's been wondering about. "…did you really live alone for two turns?"

Zapallie seems surprised by the sudden resumption of conversation. "Hm? Oh. Kind of. I was Holdless for 2 Turns and some. I was alone for awhile, but I …" she frowns. "It's not always safe to be all alone, you know?"

Holdless. Borodin nods to that, biting his lip a little as he listens. Alone, and then… "No, it's not. Sometimes… any company's better than being caught alone." He looks away, to the road ahead of him, and now he's the one who hurries up his pace, just a little.

"Exactly," even someone like Laris. Zapallie increases her stride and puts her head down again. Now that they're headed back into the Weyr she reassumes that tart, defensive cloak she always wears, a dark cloud taking place over her face. As soon as they reach the outskirts (and thus guard patrols) and she's fairly sure that Borodin will reach the Weyr safely and not get lost, she'll say a curt goodbye and vanish to whatever hole it is she hides in during the day.