'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.

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.

Leave it to a young boy to try and explore everything there is to explore. A young boy and his canine, that is. Standing in the entrance to the shadowy, ancient tunnel that twists into the depths of the weyr, Ezra peers into the darkness, glow basket held high while Zoi sits at his side, gnawing on her leash. She goes through one every few days, but Ezra seems to have given up training her any different. At least she's not pulling anymore? Peering into the gloom, Ezra takes a small step into the tunnel, peering up at the layers of stone arching above, the different colors flickering back at him with a pale green hue from the glows.

Edani is just passing by. Well, he would be if he knew which way he was supposed to go. Dressed in leather shoes, khaki trous and a crisp open-necked shirt of white, he's obviously not dressed for the beast pens today. He looks like he's been to the library, for the carry sack over his shoulder is open with a book and a rolled document of some sort sticking out of the opening. He's taken a wrong turn somewhere and wound up here, perplexed and maybe on the edge of frustration when he round the corner only to stumble upon Ezra and Zoi. It only takes a second to note boy and pup at the tunnel entrance and discern what Ezra's contemplating. "Going exploring?" Hopefully his question doesn't startle too badly.

Ezra does jump a little bit, as does Zoi, the canine turning with her ears perked, tail wagging. "You scared me," Ezra says after the moment of fright has passed him by. Glancing back at the tunnel, he turns around to look at Edani and give his best tween 'I don't really care about anything' shrug. "Maybe. What're you doin'?" The sack with the book and scroll (ugh) is eyed, brows furrowing in confusion and distaste.

"I'm sorry Ezra." Edani is sincere in that, stepping closer he bites back a smile at the feigned nonchalance to his question. "I'm lost, actually," he says with a touch of coughed chagrin. "Was going to study this map I signed out of the library," he goes on with a jerk of one thumb over his shoulder to where the sack hangs. "Do you like maps, Erza?" Maybe it's asked because he's assuming it's the book the boy is grimacing at.

Ezra shifts his weight a little and shrugs. "You're lost? But'cha got a map?" that seems to amuse the boy, and he grins behind his curtain of hair. "Map's're okay, I guess. They're good and stuff, for finding different tunnels and things, or where to plant a crop or what areas flood in the spring rains and the snow melt…" He trails off, shrugging as he displays just a glimmer of all the old Stonehaven knowledge he's got buried in his mixed up head.

Edani's mouth pulls in a lop-sided sort of smile seeing a bit of that grin before the hair hides it completely. To see the boy less than completely tense and wary is a pleasure, to be sure, but he dares not remark on that. Best not comment on the floods part of Ezra's commentary either. As casually as he can manage it, "It's not a map of the tunnels. It's not even a map of Fort Weyr." He's standing close to where Ezra is, in the opening to that darker tunnel, glowbasket in hand, Zoi sitting there chewing on her leash. "Where are we anyway?"

Who knows what Inyri was doing wandering around in parts of the Weyr she'd never been before, except that it was entirely likely that the young woman got bored. Days off are always boring, and since there've been a lot of celebrations recently, she's been off on her own — wandering. What she certainly hadn't expected was to hear familiar voices, and when she comes around a corner, firelizard perched on each shoulder like she'd brought them along as fashion accessories (decidedly unbalanced in size), Inyri tries to place the voice and calls out, "— Edani?"

Ezra peers at Edani curiously, his eyes flicking to the satchel again. "What's it a map of, then?" he has to ask. He didn't even think twice about the flood comment, nor does he really connect it now. Looking back into the tunnels, the boy shrugs. "Somewhere in Fort," he says, and there's just a hint of humor to his voice. "Was thinkin' of goin' down there but…" He trails off and gives an involuntary shiver, but he tries to hide it by moving the glow abruptly, and then crouching to rub at Zoi's ears. "I dunno." He shrugs, peering into the darkness while Zoi fishes out a piece of something (hopefully it's food) out of his pocket to eat. Then he jumps when Inyri's voice echoes down towards them at the opening of the tunnels, and he straightens, pushing hair hastily away from his eyes. "Inyri?" he calls back, his voice softer and pitched just right so it bounces off the stone and carries for a long distance. Another Stonehaven trick?

"Some of the islands in the western continent. The Emerald Isle clutser where-" Edani peers into the tunnel behind him, frowns and tilts his head as if… No couldn't have heard that whisper of sole on stone. Back to Ezra he sees that wobble of the glow basket and thinking the boy is about to drop it, puts out a steadying hand, "Careful! You want to go down there? Alone?" He jumps - mainly because the boy jumps and turns when he hears his name. "Down here," he adds after Ezra though it's too much too loud, for it bounces around all over the place.

A Stonehaven trick that works, at least — it's definitely Inyri, and she calls back, "Hi Ezra!" as the click-click of her boot heels on the ground gives away where she is, at least somewhat. They'd be able to tell from which direction she's coming, at least. "What are you guys doing down here?" might be better asked once they're actually standing near one another, but if they keep talking, she might be able to get close enough to actually come across them physically.

Ezra's brows furrow in thought. "S'that where you're from?" he asks quietly. "You goin' to look?" For what, he doesn't specify, but he continues to peer up at Edani, his pale green eyes almost unearthly in the green light of the glows. "Maybe," he answers, and there's a bit of a stubborn firmness to his voice when he says it. But as his gaze flickers into the dark tunnel, there's the unmistakable flicker of fear in his face, and he shifts a bit closer to the older boy. Casually, of course, but it's there just the same. Turning his head, he tries to locate Inyri, and then just frowns. Not the sort of person to keep yelling at someone he can't see, he doesn't answer his question. They're just at the beginning of this tunnel after all, so shouldn't be hard to find.

Ezra might be able to tell which way Inyri’s coming from but Edani is still craning his neck to look in different directions. This boy is obviously not used to being encased in stone. To the darkness beyond them, he answers lightly, "I took a wrong turn." Or several. Still searching back the way he came, he nods to Ezra and then says, "When I am healed enough to go *Between*, yeah. I have enough marks to pay for a ride there and for a sweep of some cotholds on the distant ones." He looks down as the boy shifts closer, hiding his concern in a casual tone, "That's very gutsy of you. I don't think I'd attempt it on my own." He pauses, eyeing the tunnel with curiosity bordering on caution, "They don't look… used. I wonder where they go?"

Eventually, Inyri even turns up! She's walking straight toward them, after all, so it didn't take much skill or effort. Little Lyonette starts up a chorus of chirps as soon as she spots other people, leading to Inyri's sharp, "Shh!" before actually focusing on the humans. Inyri's hair is a bit mussed up, and she's carrying a now-empty flask of water. "Fancy meeting you two down here," she says, trying to look classy with a people-pleaser smile even though she really looks like she's been crawling around in a tunnel. "Heading somewhere interesting?" Because of course they're using these tunnels to get to a specific place.

Ezra glances up at Edani again, his expression hard to read in the shifting light. "Can I come?" he asks, his voice a soft, soft whisper. "I can help…" Perhaps he is hoping to find his own family out there, the ones who weren't piled up under a blanket of snow in a corner of Stonehaven's courtyard. Then he looks at the tunnels, his shoulders shifting beneath his pink striped jacket. "I don't know," he whispers. "I don't like tunnels." Then why is he considering exploring some? Turning, he smiles when Inyri approaches, his posture straightening a bit. "Hi. And maybe, I dunno…"

Edani's eyes glint in the little light from Ezra's glowbasket as he takes in the mussed hair, two firelizards and the practiced smile Inyri's flashing them, "Isn't it though?" he asks facetiously in return. "Maybe down there," he points to that sorta-creepy looking tunnel while giving Ezra room to decide if he wants to actually go through with his prior impulse. "Western's a long way from Fort…" he says as though dubiously trying to decide when in fact he'd love to take the boy on an adventure somewhere that doesn't remind him of stone-clad holds and wintertime.

Inyri, of course, has come in at the wrong part of the conversation, because: "Wait, you're trying to get to /Western/ from down here? You know that won't work, right?" Or else, she's pretty sure it won't — don't ask her how, because geography outside of the Fort area is not anywhere near her strong point. She certainly looks curious, though; at least, the part of her they can see does. Her own light is extremely dim, and hanging down where it is from her hand, is only illuminating her left boot.

Ezra looks hungrily up at Edani, shifting his weight to his toes for a moment. "I want to go," he says, hope and wistfulness and desire for a trip, for an adventure, for something other than /this/ plain in his voice. But then he balks, shifting back onto his heels, uncertain. "But, uh, if you don't wanna take a kid, I understand…" And that seems to be his cue to glance at Inyri and then square his shoulders, taking one big step into the tunnel. And then freezing there.

Edani laughs at Inyri's question. He can't help it. But a semi-smirk grows on his mouth as he gets an idea and he says (altogether too) brightly, "Why yes! We are. Actually, it's a magic tunnel-" he feigns secrecy as he waves the young woman over, while putting a finger to his lips. "Ezra and I were just about to go on an expedition to where the water is turquoise and the jungles gleam with an emerald light beckoning from sugar white beaches." He gives Ezra a look that's both conspiratorial and big-brother-challenge as he asks, "Are you sure you're ready to face the unknown in far off places?" That giant step is taken right after and Edani grins outright, "I guess that settles it. We're going to Western! Would you like to come along Inyri?" He steps in beside Ezra adding in a low-voice, "You can fly with me when I go if you can get out of your harper lessons."

Laughing, Inyri agrees, "Oh, well. In /that/ case. Why not? I'd love to see just how that's possible. Unfortunately, I haven't brought anything to record the experience except a mostly burned-out glowbasket and these two idiots." Taking offense, her green chirps again. The bronze is totally ignoring them; he's too good for this conversation, apparently. "Durahiko is helping Koren clean up. Don't ask me how that works." It's amusing, apparently; or that's just a lingering smile from laughing at the idea of finding Western by tunnel.

Ezra turns his head to blink at Edani, his literal minded brain struggling with the duality of this tunnel 'trip' and the real Western trip. "It's…not a magic tunnel," he says, brows furrowing as he pushes hair out of his face. "It's an empty tunnel, and I don't know where it goes and I don't know if I wanna know where it goes." That conspiratorial look and the challenging one have Ezra confused rather than comforted, and he shakes his head. "Are you talkin' about the tunnel? Or Western? I wanna go to Western. I don't wanna go into the tunnel. I'm sick of tunnels. I was in tunnels for days after-" but he cuts himself off and scows, crouching down to rub Zoi's ears. What a little spoil-sport. He does look up at Edani at his whisper though, light and eagerness sparking in his green eyes. "I'll get out of them," he promises, voice almost fevered with desire. "I wanna go." He looks at Inyri again, and is once more tongue-tied and has nothing to say to the girl he recently took on a 'date' and was too chicken to even try to kiss. Or touch, for that matter.

Edani turns a look over his shoulder, waiting for Inyri to join them though his attention is pulled down by the mutter beside him and he takes a breath, the brightness ebbing from him with his sigh. He squats down beside Ezra. "I was talking about both," he explains patiently and earnestly, "I'll take you with me to Western if you can get permission from… whoever you need to. And… I was playing pretend. Haven't you ever done that before? I used to do it all the time with my-" his swallow is a quick one, barely a hiccup, "-little sisters. We used to chase pirates and find treasure and… It was fun." He ends up lamely, shooting a look down that spooky dark tunnel. He doesn't even ask why the boy is down here when he can guess what the cut off comment would have been. All he says is, "You don't have to go down there, Ezra."

"Pirates, huh? Our pretend games never had pirates. We had wild dragons who would try to move into our home and those kinds of things. Ridiculous, since it's not like dragons would really have wanted — then again, there were a lot of fish hanging around all the time, so maybe some smaller dragons might have." Inyri's siblings had strange tastes, maybe. The idea of actually going to Western has her interested, though; there's that familiar tilt of the head that means 'Inyri is sizing you up,' and she asks Edani, "You actually going to Western for some reason? Need someone else to put an ear to the ground?" She can go between. She can hunt information.

Ezra peers at Edani through his hair, blinking and clearly trying to remember. His brows furrow, and then he reaches out toward the older boy's arm. A quick, abrupt, gripping gesture unless Edani moves away. "We played hunters and tunnelsnakes," he whispers. "And minecrafters finding a huge vein of gold and Stonehaven was rich and we could get whatever we wanted. And we played wild runners, until Mom tried to feed us hay or Dad tried to hitch us to a cart, and then we'd stop running everywhere and neighing and being silly, and they'd say 'Whew, our kids are back!' and then we'd have dinner." His lower lip is trembling. Heads up? "I don't want to remember," he whispers, voice cracking. "But I can't help it…" Maybe that's why he came down here. To the tunnels that resemble Stonehaven's. To remember. Or to try and forget.

"And castaways and rene-" Edani coughs and finishes, "-renewed colonists, you know, those people who Aivas says were awakened from coldsleep to inhabit this planet." It's lame, it's awkward, his coverup and he shoots Inyri a 'help-me-out-here' look, tilting his head ever so slightly in Ezra's direction. But perhaps he needn't have worried for the hand gripping his arm dispels the worry that he'd noticed as the boy bubbles on about his family. Edani listens with growing wonder at the utter change in the boy's expression and vocal timbre. She shoots Inyri another look over Ezra's head, from ever-so-slightly widened eyes that says 'are you seeing this?' But then, as a mirage will do, the memories evaporate leaving only the same stark emptiness that Edani has experienced and when it does, he understands just what Ezra means. He pulls the boy into a rough hug and mutters gruffly into his hair, "I know. Sometimes… I don't want to either. But it's all I have left of them." Then more softly, "So I remember, even when it hurts." Lifting overbright eyes to Inyri, he answers her question at last with one of his own, "Are good at finding things that are lost?" Because they could both use some help with that.

Inyri — hesitates, standing where she is, looking a bit awkward, caught up in the aura of 'everyone else has a problem I don't have.' She has a loving family, and a piece of gossip and some drama sent her packing rather than face the horrific fight that she had to deal with. She's a privileged girl compared to these two; her family is there, together, happy, just not near her. They write, sometimes. She writes back. She writes, and they write back — she knows where they are. All of them. So it's difficult. But at least she's good at gentle words, and so after a moment she pulls herself together to say: "Remember the good parts," in that soft tone. "Until you find them, or they come find you. Which, yes, I'm good at. Always have been," she can tell Edani with a confident smile, because it's true. Missing /people/ maybe she hasn't done yet, except for kids hiding somewhere around her mother's tavern, but — it's kind of like any other sort of low-key investigating she's done. And if Pern had PIs? Inyri would already be one.

Ezra doesn't notice Edani's slip, so swept away by his memories that they briefly steal his breath when he's through. The hug startles him though, his body stiffening automatically. His first hug in…how long? His mind tries to remember but then he frantically pushes those thoughts away. He does /not/ want to remember his mother's last hug. No no no no no. But even the thought of the memory has the boy trembling, and then going limp in Edani's arms as he begins to cry. Messy, slobbery, boy tears mingled with Zoi's sudden high pitched whining and pawing at her boy's leg, the canine confused and a little nervous. Of course, Ezra thinks everyone is dead, but there's still that hope. That bitter sweet hope that he just can't quite let go of.

Ah, but the good parts cut the deepest when you believe you will never have them back again! Nevertheless, Inyri is right and Edani nods agreement with her, his chin moving against the top of the boy's head likely all that indicates to Ezra that he does. "Then you're coming with us too," he says to her, which is the best invite he can manage at the moment, his arms tightening almost fiercely as the boy starts sobbing. "It's okay, it's okay, cry it out," he whispers to that storm of grief. Poor Zoi, she'll be the only one who doesn't understand what's going on, but he tries to soothe them both with gentle, inarticulate shushing and murmurs. Sometimes there are no appropriate words.

Edani, at least, knows what to do with the canine; Inyri would have tried, but with the beastcrafter nearby she — well. She continues her awkward hovering, for the most part, chewing at the edge of her lip a little. Nervous and out of place. She's /there/, supportive if she needs to be, but for the most part is just — she's just there, and obviously out of place. "Of course," she tells Edani, as far as going to Western is concerned; maybe she's not exactly sure what (or who) was lost, but she's down for the mission, regardless. Regardless of the ship-lost-at-sea expression on her face, blank and only slightly tinged around the edge with emotion.

Ezra clings to Edani for a few more moments, until his sobs ebb away. He whispers something far too low for anyone but Edani to hear, and then sits up a bit, wiping his eyes and his nose on the sleeve of his jacket. Eww. Blinking bleary eyes at Edani, the tween darts a glance to Inyri finally, and blushes crimson as he tries to pull himself together. He can't believe he cried in front of /her/. "When?" he asks, glancing between the two older folks, his voice thick and breaking again. Reaching out, he rubs Zoi's ears too, until she wiggles up to start licking his face until he snorts and even laughs a little.

Ezra whispers "Don't leave me, k?"

Those sharp, distressed cries of Zoi pierce though Edani's focus on Ezra and he lifts his head to give Inyri a wordless appeal, tilting his head towards Zoi while mouthing the words, "Hug her, pet her." Like he's doing for Ezra. "I won't," he promises to that whispered plea. His arms do loosen, however as the boy sits up and he makes room for Zoi, his hands resting on the boy's shoulders at arm's length, giving them a squeeze before one of them reaches into his pocket and withdraws a simple white handkerchief he offers it over to the boy with a solemn dignity. "As soon as you both can be cleared on your ends," he says briskly. "Maybe in a seven. We'll have plans to make and supplies to gather, so we should get back to the library so I can show you guys where we're going." So saying he rises, offers a hand to Ezra to help him up (which he won't hold like a girl, but he may offer a shoulder-squeeze now and then on the way back).