Fort Weyr - Star Stones
The landing area for dragons here on the Stones has been warn smooth from Turns and Turns of watching - waiting for the Red Star to show itself in the position that would mean Thread was on the way. These days though, it's not uncommon to see the Stones dotted with flowers - a reminder that the threat no longer exists. The Finger Rock and Eye Rock stand as silent testaments to the success of Pern's people. From this vantage point - in good weather - you can see clear across the Bowl to the shimmering Lake.

With dawn still another candlemark or two away, the skies are dark but with the moons still out and the stars there is some light cast on the ground below. The winds are cold and bitter, feeling much more like winter than autumn and any water shallow enough has frozen. Frost covers the stones, ground and forest and the Weyr itself is still and quiet. A few Guards go about their patrols, a few more standing sentry, along with the watchrider up on the lonely post by the Star Stones. Another pair have come to rest on the ledge, such a familiar sight by now that the aged dragon on duty barely lifts a lid to acknowledge their arrival. Velokraeth shifts restlessly, his wings held loose at his side and ready for flight. The pale bronze's breath streams white and thick from his nostrils, his head swivelled to observe the bowls below and then out towards the wilderness beyond. « Do you think they will come? It's rather miserably cold and it's not as though it is their duty to join us on our early patrol. » He inquires of his rider. Th'ero is seated in the saddle, buckled in and dressed in his thickest flying gear, facemask already pulled up and goggles down to protect his skin from the cold. » True, but I think the gesture and invitation was enough. Cold weather or not, I believe they will come. « The Weyrleader assures his lifemate, even as he turns to gaze out towards the southern end of the bowl, silent and expectant.

Across one of the moons a dark shape flits, large with expansive wings that unfurl into a gliding posture. The shadowy dragon — framed for a moment by the moon behind — descends slowly, his great bulk coming in to land on the Star Stones not far from Velokraeth. Sharuth's eyes slowly whirl a gentle blue as the bronze — now over a meter longer than the dragon who once towered over him — croons a subdued hello to both Velokraeth and his rider. So'l sits comfortably on the saddle, dressed similarly to Th'ero for a very cold, very /early/ flight. Goggles protect his eyes while a warm scarf protects his mouth and cheeks from the wind. The latter is pulled down for the moment as So'l smiles and salutes Th'ero. "Weyrleader! Velokraeth," he greets warmly. "I had no idea it was this cold already. Afternoon sweeps will do that, I guess," So'l smirks, referring to early morning frost melting by the time his sweeps normally occur. « Good morning, Magnificent Velokraeth, » Sharuth sends, his mind touch a feathery brush of frosty pine and scurry squirrels.

Velokraeth lifts his head when a shadow flits over the moons and once Sharuth's form is recognizable, the pale bronze warbles a low but warm welcome. « Good morning, young Sharuth! If it's morning you would prefer to call this. How good of you to join us regardless! How are you and So'l adjusting to your rank as full riders? » he asks, his tone mellow and amiable. He's in a good mood, despite his sarcasm. Th'ero will pull down his facemask in order to speak to So'l, returning the salute though hastily. "Wingrider So'l!" he calls back with just a hint of a grin. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? "Oh, just you wait until the snows arrive. Then you will know cold!" Velokraeth rumbles in agreement, having been paying some attention to his rider's words and in a response the bronze stretches out his wings. Just enough to make the hint clear. « We should get to flying! That will warm us! Though I could think of something FAR better… » Now the bronze's mind ripples and swirls in a rich and clear golden-white hue like a fresh, crisp and sweet white wine followed by the scent of woodsmoke and spice. "How has Thunderbird Wing been treating you?" Th'ero will ask after giving one of Velokraeth's nearby ridges a good (but affectionate) swat. Behave!

"It's treating us well," So'l replies with a nod. A nod /and/ a brrr. "Forest fires, displaced feline attacks, /and/ people being carried out to see…I never realized just how /much/ search and rescue riders are needed. How did the Old Timers," which now includes the infamous riders like Lessa, F'lar, and the others, "both fight Thread /and/ save people from Pern itself?" the bronzerider snerked. Taking Velokraeth's cue, Sharuth extends his great wings and bobs his head in confirmation. « Yes! Flight will warm our bones but only make /them/ colder, » the bronze momentarily nods upward, indicating their respective riders. « Even so, there is work to be done! Especially now that we are no longer Weyrlings! » Sharuth seems rather proud of this particular point. « We are enjoying being full riders now. And I am glad to have my own ledge, » he replies. The…other means of keeping warm makes the bronze very thoughtful. « If only a couple of greens would rise now, at this very moment. » Sigh.

"I've no idea," Th'ero replies honestly to So'l and with a look that is sympathetic and understanding that doesn't quite match the smirk that curves his lips. "So the short of it is that you've been kept busy!" he drawls with a low chuckle. No surprise there and now perhaps it's understood why the Weyrleader is so rarely seen just casually lounging about. "Yet if the Old Timers could manage it, then so can we. Especially since we do not have the excuse of Thread falling. We best get to our sweeps, before this cold seeps any further into our bones. Velokraeth will lead and Sharuth can take position at his right flank." Th'ero then slips on his mask again and gives the 'when ready' signal. « No, you have matured and can now hold rank of prestige and honor! » Velokraeth agrees, just as proud in Sharuth as the young bronze is in himself. « There are perks for certain! Come now, Sharuth. We fly the south quarter today. Not the most exciting but the shorter! » With that he pushes from the ledge, wings snapping to their full length and sweeping in powerful strokes to carry his bulky body up high into the pre-dawn sky. Once he's cleared the tooth crags, he will begin to veer southwards. « Wait until a green rises? Oh Sharuth, come now! Surely you know you do not have to wait to woo a green to your side? If you're clever enough, the younger ones who do not mind to be flattered or fussed over will enjoy such company. Not so easily done with the golds, mind you! Oh, speaking of. Did you happen to see the lovely beauty from High Reaches when she came to visit? »

"Alright then," So'l grins back, "let's fly indeed!" He raises his scarf — one woven from verdant greens and barkish browns — to protect his face and signals his readiness in return. Sharuth raises his wings and then drops, letting the sails catch the wind and pumping them to steadily achieve altitude. In the fading moonlight, the shadows cast by the two dragons skim the world below, gliding across the weyrbowl until the inky echoes fade away as the dragons rise higher still. Sharuth takes the proper position, both he and his rider keeping eyes peeled for anything out of sorts that might be happening below. « I have been very busy, » comes the bronze-to-bronze reply. « And perhaps too focused on watching the weyrbowl from my ledge. Very little escapes my sight there! » he proudly exclaims. « I should spend more time with the greens, though it is the golds that interest me most. Sadly, I saw her not…but her likeness was passed on, » he acknowledges.

Off they fly, with Velokraeth having them settle at a decent altitude that does not bring them in too low but also provides a good range of sight for both dragon and rider. With the winds low on this morning, it makes for favorable conditions and the pale bronze flies on with ease, relaying commands and directions to Sharuth, along with anything to report. He does this in a carefully woven patchwork between conversations, flipping through them all without a moment of hesitation or confusion. « There is nothing wrong with observing from one's ledge! I do it all the time! How else is one to know what is occurring in the Weyr? And those with enough intelligence know better than to rely solely on gossip and heresay. Far better to see the truths for yourself. » He explains, pleased by Sharuth's pride. « Oh, the greens are wonderful for a little romp but it's true that the golds offer so much more. » Obviously. « Has it now? My, my. She visits for a day and already there are tales of her beauty! Well, you may meet her yet. I learned from mine - the truth now, this is not gossip - that Kayeth may be ours soon. Seems High Reaches are willing to part with her and her rider. All the more beneficial to us! And another lady for you to chase. » Velokraeth drawls in amusement, while Th'ero leans forwards in his straps, his head turned to the ground below. Watchful.

« And for you, » comes the winky reply from the younger, more colorful bronze. « I had not heard that she might join us. This pleases me, » Sharuth rumbles, sweet and honeyed woodland sap coating his thoughts. « I am surprised they would let her go. Beauty like that…I certainly wouldn't, » the bronze boasts. Like his rider, Sharuth is keeping a watchful eye — two of them, really — and seems to think he's spotted something on the southern road leading towards Fort Weyr. « Fire…well, a little of it, anyway, » the bronze reports. And indeed, down below along the road, there's a very slight flicker of orange light that seems to come and go. « Nothing on the road should be on fire, » Sharuth notes. » Ask Velokraeth to let Th'ero know. Ask permission to check it out, « So'l nods, knowing the Weyrleader will be likely to agree. And when that confirmation comes, the pair of bronzes circle overhead and angle their descent enough to get a closer look…

It's a wooden supply cart. Or at least, it was. Large wheels are blackened and laying at outward angles beneath the bulk of cart's girth. There is, indeed, fire and it seems to have burned much of wooden structure and the contents within. Blackened barrels smolder in the dying embers of the fire that ravaged this cart, having split apart at the seams and splashing wine across the prow. Baskets of vegetables are all but scorched, leaving twisted husks of singed peppers and potatoes. The runners that would have pulled this cart along seem to have gone, though how they escaped their straps and buckles is unknown at this point. Gone, too, is the cart's driver, though tracks seen in the dim light of breaking dawn lead towards Fort Weyr.

Velokraeth's mind ripples again with that rich laughter, bubbles rising to tickle the surface of that crystal clear gold-hue wine that saturates his mind. « How could I not chase such a stunning lady? If she calls, I will not refuse her. » he admits with a mental shrug and a wry smirk. He is a male, through and through! « Well said, young Sharuth! So we will claim her and to the best bronze will go the spoils when she rises! » As fun as casual and humorous banter can be, Velokraeth knows well enough to keep his focus on their task as well and soon the bronze goes silent as he attentively scans the ground below. He discovers the source of interest moments after Sharuth has relayed the find and the pale bronze rumbles low and concerned in this throat. « Nothing should be on fire but the wood in a hearth. » he agrees and the permission sought is given. Angling downwards, he will get a close enough look even with his odd, mismatched eyes to report his findings and see if Sharuth has seen the same details as him. « It has already been burning for sometime. We've come to late! Yet I see only the cart and the remnants of the food it carried. No bodies. » Th'ero makes a series of gestures from his seat in the saddle towards So'l, which are recognizable on their own but Velokraeth confirms through Sharuth all the same. « Th'ero finds it strange that the driver and beasts are gone too and I can see evidence of hoof prints leading off towards the Weyr. He says we should follow, if it can be confirmed there are no casualties or persons in need here. »

« That would be wise, » Sharuth rumbles back in deference. « I can see no bodies in the wreckage, nor does So'l. » The rider — of course — seeing through his dragon's eyes and helping to sift through the visual details from aloft. « Let us follow the tracks, then. No one was hurt here, » the bronze assents, forming back up behind Velokraeth as the Weyrleader directed him back towards the weyr. So'l was just as concerned as Th'ero and couldn't figure out why a cart would be on fire out here, unless it was an accident or an attack of some kind. Hopefully answers would come soon…

After several long minutes of flying, the bobbing light of unshielded glowbasket came into view down the road ahead. As the details resolved as they got closer, a limping runner could be seen being pulled along by a stooped man holding a walking stick, which the glowbasket was hanging from. The man must have heard the flapping of dragon's wings for he turned back and started waving his stick around desperately — as if he wasn't sure the dragonmen would see him. His face was bruised and swollen, one eye closed shut and puffed out to the extreme. Blood trickled down from his temple.

Th'ero is no doubt leaning towards 'accident' as the cause, not wanting to believe that it could be an attack. Yet for a cart carrying nothing but food to catch fire? Seems suspicious. Velokraeth turns back towards the Weyr, flying fast but not at a breakneck speed. The bronze is keeping their altitude low as well, in case of any further evidence appearing. Or waving? « Look there, Sharuth! Do you see him? A man, I believe. » Swooping down lower, Velokraeth will circle wide and then closer before landing, careful not to send too much dirt or debris flying towards the figure on the road. Eyes whirling with shades of alarm and concern, Velokraeth will stand still and ready, wings folded loosely at his sides while Th'ero unbuckles himself and dismounts. "Are you alright?" The Weyrleader calls out, watching the stranger carefully and not approaching too closely yet. He'll wait for So'l to join him before taking a few tentative steps forwards.

« I see him, » Sharuth notes in response. Still following in Velokraeth's wake, the bronze comes in to land nearby, folding his own wings out of the way and allowing his rider to unbuckle and slide down. So'l checks his sword belt — it's fastened well — before approaching along with Th'ero. The man before them is obviously older; perhaps in his 60th decade? His face is careworn and, despite the blood the trickles down, he seems to be smiling with what can only be relief. Th'ero's asking the questions and so the bronzer settles in to hear what happened, though his hand won't stray far from his sword if it'd needed.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," the old man waves away Th'ero's concern. "At least I am now," he nods with relief. "Didn't think anyone'd find me so early in the morning so I set out for Fort Weyr. Looks like Fort Weyr came to me," he says, his voice filled with gratitude. "Was making my way to trade in the market today when three men came out of the trees. One of my runners got an arrow in his right front thigh," he says, gesturing with the glowbasket-stick towards the beast. Indeed, a dark and bloody wound — small in size — accounts for the runner's limp. "They set fire to my cart and started attacking me! That is, of course, until my other runner went wild. I got on ol' Nibbly here and we rode off. Guessing they didn't bother following me."

Th'ero likewise checks his belt, both for dagger and sword before approaching the older man with So'l at his side. The Weyrleader does not breath a word to the young bronzerider, but the glance he gives says it all: be alert and ready for anything! Yet the closer they come to the man, the more Th'ero's posture seems to relax. Not entirely, but neither is he being overly hostile. Especially after his gaze takes in the man's age, the wounds and his reaction to being approached by two Fortian riders and one of high rank! "You look to be injured," Th'ero points out, dismissing the man's claims of being 'fine'. The rest is met with a brief startled look before the Weyrleader schools his expression down to one of stoic calmness. When he speaks, his voice is flat. The news does not bode well. "Wingrider So'l and I were just going through our round of patrols when So'l's bronze Sharuth noticed what remained of your cart. These men that attacked you… Did they appear organized? Did they take anything of yours before setting the rest to torch?" As the questions are plied to the old man, Velokraeth settles back uneasily on his haunches and rumbles low to the young Sharuth. « This does not bode well. Why would men attack a cart and destroy the goods? That behaviour is not typical to holdless or renegade. Unless this man is not speaking the whole truth? » the pale bronze goes silent for a moment. « Depending on how this man answers, we may need to inform Wingleader Nishka and the Captain. Until then, I am rousing Varmiroth and Kimmila. They may be able to scout for us and not alarm the Weyr. » Yet.

Varmiroth senses that Velokraeth's mind reaches out and will brush up gently at first and then insistently if he encounters a sleeping consciousness. Wake up! He's apologetic for the intrusion, but not at all gentle with trying to gain the blue's attention. Time is of the essence! « Little brother! You and your rider are needed. Tell her she should arm herself and you both need to fly with the utmost silence and stealth from the Weyr and out towards the southern end of the forest by the main road. You will see Sharuth and I, but do not land. Fly onwards until you see the charred remains of a cart. Fly beyond that and tell us if you see three men or any loose and wild runners. If you do, return to us but mark their general location. And if you would not mind bringing some bandages? » Is that all? Quite the laundry list of tasks! And all at the wee hours of dawn and with it so cold and frost covered outside! Tsk.

Velokraeth senses that Varmiroth was asleep, thankyouverymuch, but at Velokraeth's insistence, Varmiroth is swift to rouse. « What? » is his first reply as his scattered thoughts begin to focus after he rouses his rider. « Fly…bandages…runners… okay. We will be away soon. » Once Kimmila gets dressed and arms herself and pulls on his straps and runs to the Healers and mounts and they fly. Sheesh! It's COLD too. Of course. They fly as instructed, swift and silent above the trees. Over Sharuth and Velokraeth, and then they climb up high, more to a sweeps altitude so as not to rouse suspicion. Flying casual.

That glance is noted and the Thunderbird Wingrider wastes no time in making preparations. » Sharuth, keep an eye out. I doubt they're still around but…just in case. « The bronze's eyes whirl ever so faster with concern then, his large head turning from side to side as he scans the trees lining the road. With forest on both sides, there's certainly plenty of places for men to hide out there. « I see nothing but will continue to watch, » Sharuth nods. To Velokraeth, the bronze adds, « He seems to speak the truth. If we find the ones who hurt him and his poor runner… » A flash of inner fire accompanies the comment, which trails off before more is said that should not be. « A good thought to bring Kimmila and Varmiroth. So'l wishes to send his firelizards out as well. Should I call them? » So'l, for his part, takes to looking about the area as well, knowing Th'ero will gather the pertinent information and focusing instead on making sure they were all safe from any lurking attack.
"They took my marks," the man replies, irritation creeping into his voice. "But they didn't keep them! They threw them into the fire." And wooden marks are not immune to burning so…yeah, they're gone. "They wore no knots and their faces were masked, Weyrleader," he adds, the light of his glowbasket and the breaking dawn making Th'ero's knot more visible now. "One of them — whose voice was very deep and gruff — warned me not to trade with the weyr again. Why would that be a reason to hurt me?" The old man seemed at a loss to understand and as he recounted the story, he grew more and more weary. "I'm cut," he nods to Th'ero's statement that he's been harmed. "And bruised, too. But I got away before they could hurt me too badly."

Velokraeth remains skeptical, watching the scene unfold ahead of them with slow and thoughtful whirling eyes. His tail has come to curl about his feet and the tip twitches back and forth to some random and idle tempo. « If one thing I've learned is that it is never wise to jump to conclusions. He seems to speak the truth, but I hold my reservations. People a crafty. This could be a clever ploy. » he remarks dryly to Sharuth, though still with the amused undercurrent to his voice. « So we shall see. Varmiroth and Kimmila are flying out now to see if they can spot signs of our three masked men. It cannot hurt to have the firelizards sent too. »

Th'ero's frown deepens to a scowl, eyes darkening at the recounted story. Glancing to So'l, he see's the young bronzerider already keeping a close eye on the forest around them and there is a subtle nod from the Weyrleader. Good! The Weyrleader focuses on the man again, lips drawn down into a grim line. "How many marks did you have on you? We can look into seeing you reimbursed for your losses. As for why you were targeted… I have no explanation." Oh, but he does! Th'ero thinks he knows in his sinking heart why this old man was targeted and it both angers and sickens him. Wisely he tries to keep his expression neutral. "Was there anything about these men that you could discern? Even with the masks? Did they appear to be holdless or the usual rogues?" he asks the man again, a touch guiltily when the weariness is noted.

Varmiroth and Sharuth sense that Velokraeth's mind broadens and expands, a far reaching cascade of dark winey reds that are accompanied by a tart and dry sharpness and the smell of wood smoke and spice. The dark liquid ripples in tandem to the shifts in tension to the bronze's thoughts and words. He's not entirely pleased at the moment. « Of all the insults! Attacking an old man just to deliver a message. Such needless foolery. You would think they're breeding barbarians here in the forests! » he scoffs. « Do you see anything, little brother? » He directs to Varmiroth, though now twines Sharuth into the bond so that the young bronze may be privy to any discoveries in the distance by the blue where neither bronze can see.

Kimmila and Varmiroth fly overhead and then rise higher above the trees, to try and avoid arousing suspicion if anyone is lurking. Bow and quiver slung across her back, Kimm is armed with her daggers as well. Spotting the burned cart, the blue circles and lands, allowing Kimmila to dismount. While he kicks off into the sky to scout, he spots the dying runner a short distance away, and circles as it dies before he returns to the cart. Meanwhile, Kimmila is cautiously following the tracks through the woods to the base of that tree. With a frown she circles it, hand sliding over the trunk while she looks upwards.

Varmiroth projects to Sharuth and Velokraeth . o O ( I see another dead runner. The tracks end at a tree. Mine is wondering if they climbed or if they somehow are inside of it, or dug beneath it. She is checking. )

Poor Sharuth. He has not yet learned the ins and outs of human cruelty. « I understand, » the bronze sends back to Velokraeth, his acceptance of the man's story flagging as the notion of dishonesty is raised. Rather than focus on the old man, though, Sharuth has been tasked with keeping watch and that's exactly what he does. There is, indeed, some movement out there. It's not an attacker, though. Rather a wherry that chooses not to tango with two bronze devourers. Instead, it flits away further into the trees and disappears. So'l, meanwhile, has moved to examine the horse. Not that he knows much about wounds — beyond what was covered during weyrlinghood — but he's seen arrow wounds before and this one seems in line with what the man has been telling them. Nodding this to Th'ero, the bronzerider moves forward again, eyes scanning ahead.

"How many? Well, it wasn't much. Enough to make some change when trading in the market today." The old man rattles off a number quickly — quickly enough that it doesn't seem like he's making it up — before saying, "I appreciate the recompense, young man. I really do. But I'm afraid I can't tell you much more. None of them were particularly large or short. Just average sized men. The one who told me not to trade had blue eyes, I think? I'm sorry," he sighs, "I'm probably not being much help to you." The old man leans heavily on his walking stick, using it for support. "While you're offering help, maybe you could see us safely to Fort Weyr? And give us a place to rest?"

Velokraeth's head swivels to catch the glimpse of a wherry appearing and then wisely retreating but the bronze does not pursue it. He's fed well in the Weyr not long ago and he is far too invested into the current situation to think of a snack. Turning his blunted muzzle back to the group, he will only whuffle as he spots So'l investigating the injured runner. Sympathetic and more so when Varmiroth relays the discovery of a second runner now dead. « Such a waste of a beast. » the bronze remarks to both the blue and Sharuth. « The old man should be reimbursed for his lost animal too. And climbed? » That seems to spark Velokraeth's interest though concern laces his voice as well. « Do tell yours to be careful, Varmiroth. It could be they are up in the trees and we all know how cornered prey can fight… »

Th'ero listens carefully and watches closely, no suspicions raised when the old man gives him the tally of marks. The Weyrleader nods briskly, signalling that the amount is agreeable and a brow quirks up shortly afterwards. Young man? It takes all his resolve not to quirk a smile at that. "It is the least we can do to help you recover from this unfortunate attack. We will also offer you lodging, as well as care for your injured runner." No cost, of course. But he does agree to the man's request and easily so. Th'ero shakes his head, "You've been plenty of help. We'll take over from here. Are you okay to walk the remaining distance?" he asks, before turning his head to So'l. "Can you have word sent to Wingleader Nishka? Tell her to inform Captain Breshir of our findings. When Kimmila returns from scouting with Varmiroth, we will have to organize a response to this…"

Kimmila climbs into the tree before dropping back down. Swinging up into the saddle, Varmiroth kicks into the sky and wings back to the others, landing behind the bronzes with a soft rumble. "Here are the bandages," and more, as she offers forward a first aid pack with numbweed and redwort and other things. "Sir," she adds to the man with a head bob and a frown of concern. "I can fly him back," she offers to Th'ero with a slight frown. Ask the inured old man to /walk/? That's harsh.

"I can walk his runner back," So'l volunteers once Kimmila has landed and offered the old man a ride. At that moment, a very excited green bursts out of *between* and flits to the bronzerider's shoulder. From his pocket, So'l pulls out a bit of meat and offers it to Brynn before pulling pen and paper from inside his jacket and composing a message. Rolling it up, he ties it with a bit of string and then hands it over to the green. "Wingleader Nishka," he orders, having already taught this particular command to the green. She takes off and with another pop is gone. "I'll start back, then? Sharuth can walk with me. He could use a little ground exercise, anyway," he half-smirks to the bronze before looking to Th'ero (and Kimmila) for confirmation.

"I greatly appreciate all this," the old man nods. "Name's Graymol if you need me. Thank you for the ride, ma'am," he offers to Kimmila. He eyes his injured runner before sighing and shaking his head. "Damn shame." He'll wait for the bluerider's help in mounting up and buckling in, offering his walking stick for securing during the trip.

Th'ero only smirks for the look given to him by Kimmila. What? How would he know if the man did not have pride or was intimidated or fearful of the dragons? All is well though and he will allow Kimmila to convey the old man back to the Weyr. "Bring the runner to the Weyr to the stone barn. Not the beast hold outside the walls." Th'ero asks of So'l, once the bronzerider has sent the green firelizard off on her task. Nodding his head in agreement, he'll allow So'l to take the injured runner, while he turns back to Velokraeth though not before having a few parting words with the old man and helping him in mounting up Varmiroth's straps. "Well met, Graymol. We'll see to your runner and to having you settled. Then we will discuss your repayment and if you are willing, Wingleader Nishka and Guard Captain Breshir may want to have a few words with you." Th'ero will then step aside and mount up Velokraeth's straps, buckling in. « We will meet you on the crags, little brother. Mine wishes to continue this hunt for these men before Thunderbird mobilizes and the Guards set out and possibly spook them further into whatever bolt holes they have. Though he thinks we are not dealing with holdless or renegades. »

Kimmila sees to Graymol's comfort in the straps and then they're off, flying to the weyr and the infirmary. « We will be there, » Varmiroth answers Velokraeth, as Kimmila helps the man to the infirmary. Then a quick run to the kitchens (provisions - important) and she's back out and mounted, and the nimble blue is soaring up to meet the bronze on the crags, landing nimbly with talons gripping at the stone. « How shall we do this? » he asks, fanning his wings to stay limber in the chilly morning air.

Velokraeth is waiting, perched precariously on some of the narrower crags and having to angle himself downwards in order to keep his balance. His wings remain half unfurled as well, poised and readied for flight. Dawn is coming, the first rays of the sun creeping over the horizon though the air remains bitter and cold, to judge from the plume of breath from the bronze's blunted maw. « We should return to the cart and follow from there. Does Kimmila remember where the tracks led? If we hurry, we may find evidence of where they went in the coating of frost. » he rumbles to the blue, while Th'ero fidgets impatiently in the saddle, his flight mask and goggles down already in preparation for flight. It makes it nigh on impossible to read his mood.

« She does, » Varmiroth says, sharing an image from his lifemate's mind. « At the base of this tree. She thinks they might have climbed up and moved through the trees. Clever way to hide their tracks. » They have to give them credit for that. Kimmila turns to peer at Th'ero and she doesn't really have to guess at his mood. She knows. With a push, Varmiroth kicks into the sky and soars forward, wings stroking the cold morning air as he sets a course for that tree once more.

Velokraeth absorbs the image and shares it with Th'ero, who then shares his opinion with the bronze. It takes but seconds for these relays to happen and the bronze launches into the air to follow Varmiroth while he rumbles in response. « Mine thinks the same. Clever, very clever. This is no raid or theft. Th'ero thinks this was pre-planned. » Keeping pace, as they near their destination Velokraeth begins to circle. « He wants to know if Kimmila agrees with this plan: they will hunt on foot and we will hunt from the sky and the firelizards will act as eyes for in the middle among the tree branches. All levels covered. »

Varmiroth flies alongside the bronze, and his reply comes swiftly. « Mine agrees that will be best, and she hopes we can catch them. » There are more complicated thoughts there, but Varmiroth can't give voice to them. Kimmila will wait until they've landed to speak her mind.

« Then we land, little brother. Let's get this over with! Th'ero is anxious to see these men caught as well. » For justice. Velokraeth also thrums with the same desire. He is as troubled as his rider is over the "message" given to the old man and does not tolerate that sort of brutality. There are far cleverer ways to make one's point and not harm the innocent in the process. Folding his wings, Velokraeth lands with ample room left for Varmiroth to do the same. He'll wait long enough for Th'ero to dismount before launching back into the sky and the Weyrleader will stand on the fringes of the forest with his hand already loosening the hilt of his sword in its scabbard. His googles and helmet are stored and with his face mask down, his expression is easily seen and predictable: he's focused, stoic and with just a hint of his temper beneath the surface.

Varmiroth lands, nimbly avoiding the trees to do so. « Yes, » he agrees with the bronze, his voice soft but his resolve firm. Letting Kimmila dismount, he gives her a loving nuzzle and then leaps skyward again, and Kimmila approaches Th'ero. "Weapons ready?" she asks, toying with the string on her bow. She too looks troubled but focused, angry and disgusted.

Velokraeth will soar low over the trees but not so much as to give away their location too much and he will sweep a little away from where their riders stand. Th'ero turns his head just enough to glance sidelong to Kimmila, noting her mood and his mouth draws into a grimace. "Yes. Though Faranth help us that we don't have to use them." He's not looking for a fight or for blood. He wants answers and then they will consider justice and punishment. "Lead, Wingmate. You know where the tree is and we will progress from there." Once she walks forwards, he will be but a step behind her and alert, eyes scanning the forests with a sharp eye. Frost coats everything and as the watery sunlight begins to peek through the trees, it gives off an ethereal glimmer. It would have been beautiful to be here, in the chill silence, on any other morning. Th'ero's mind is focused however on the hunt, his gloved hand still resting on the hilt of his sword. A flash of bronze, brown and green signal the arrival of his firelizards as they zip away on their tasks among the branches.

Varmiroth follows, flying a short distance from the bronze so they can cover more ground. Kimmila moves silently forward, picking her way through the underbrush on silent, hunter's feet towards the tree. "Here," she says softly, "here are where the tracks stop. I climbed the tree and you can see there," she says, pointing, "how that branch leads to that tree? And from there to the next? You could take any number of paths off the ground, from here. Smart. Very smart."

Th'ero follows her, his steps as equally silent even if he has to move a little slower to achieve it. He won't allow Kimmila far from his sights though and even when they reach the tree and he scans the evidence, his eyes are constantly flitting back to her and to the surrounding forest. Lifting his head, he follows where she points and swears under his breath. "Not your average holdless. I'd say renegades but… renegades do not do this sort of work." he growls under his breath, keeping it lowered in case their quarry are in fact nearby. Taking a few steps forwards, his mood sours quickly. "It will be next to impossible to track them. Bastards!" Minutes later and in the distance to their right comes a sudden yell, echoed by two other voices and the shriek of angered but triumphant firelizards. Simultaneously, Th'ero whirls around to face the source, his eyes unfocused as he tries to cobble together the images filtered back while Velokraeth roars. « They found them! One man has fallen. He won't be running, his leg is most likely broken. The other two are trying! » he informs Varmiroth as he turns on wing and dives for the tree tops where the men had huddled briefly to regroup. Stupid of them! They should have kept going! "This way!" Th'ero calls to Kimmila and signalling for her to take up position beside him, he's off and draws his sword…

Kimmila tilts her head at the sudden commotion, and then she's springing after Th'ero, swiftly and seamlessly notching an arrow into the string, ready to be drawn and fired if needed. Varmiroth veers off after Velokraeth, diving as well and trying to see if there is room for him to land. « What shall I do? » he calls, waiting for orders.

Velokraeth gives a frustrated warble as once again his size works against him for these forests and he veers upwards again, scraping the tips of his wing fingers against some branches. Hissing, he calls back to Varmiroth. « Catch the runner! » For one of the men has made a break for it and his clothing stands out starkly in the rising sun. With no leaves for cover, he makes a perfectly visible target to follow as he foolishly turns for a clearing. Th'ero and Kimmila will catch up to the other two men, the one on the ground in no shape to fight and no longer a threat while the second one who had attempted to help his fallen comrade backs off with his hands raised. "Yield, yield!" he calls to them through his mask and promptly lowers himself to his knees. Renegades or holdless these men are not, but that doesn't stop Th'ero from approaching, sword still drawn and at the ready and a furious, disgusted look on his features. The man on the ground begins to groan and writhe a bit in pain but is spared only a cursory glance for now. "Are you armed?" The Weyrleader barks.

Varmiroth surges forward after the runner, soaring over the clearing and then turning on a wingtip to /drop/ heavily in front of the man, wings flared and fanning to try and stagger him as he roars. Hello, scary blue dragon. Elsewhere, Kimmila keeps her bow drawn as she moves a few steps away from Th'ero, scanning the surrounding forest. "Is there more?" she says, demanding an answer from the two men. "More than three?"

The third man does stagger back and falls flat on his ass, too stunned and scared witless to scream at first. When he does find his voice, he does scream. Good and loud as he scrabbles back in the snow until his back painfully thuds into the trunk of a tree, where he immediately attempts to curl up, babbling gibberish and what sounds like a lot of oaths, promises and apologies. Back in the forests, the second man who yielded looks up as the echoing sound of his comrades screaming filters back. He groans, looking pale and sick. "No! No more men, just us three! I swear it, Wingrider. Weyrleader! Please." he begs, hands up as he shakes his head. "No, not armed neither. Just our pocket knives." he says with a sidelong and terrified look to the sword Th'ero still holds and is no less relieved even when the Weyrleader sheathes it again. Signalling to Kimmila to keep at the ready and on guard, Th'ero walks forwards and roughly hauls the mask from the second man's head. The man is really no more than a boy, perhaps in his seventeenth or eighteenth turn though he's built like a bull. With shaggy hair and a bulky featured face, he certainly gives the image but he will not meet either rider's eyes. "My… my brother. His leg. It's really bad." he stammers, just as the first man gives another groan. Ow?

Varmiroth settles down into a low crouch, peering at the man. This is his scary face! Grr. Kimmila stands still and keeps watch, a tight hold on her drawn bow string as she looks around - and up - and around again. "Good!" she snaps at the maskless boy, a snarl pulling at her lips. "Do you know what the fuck you just did?"

Varmiroth could be making a cute friendly face or a puppy-eyed look and the man would still be curled up against the tree babbling like he's lost his mind. Maybe he has? Regardless, so long as the blue is in his field of vision and in his path, this man isn't going anywhere. Th'ero circles around the young kneeling man, who despite his best efforts isn't trying to look so petrified. The tears kind of ruin that though and the look of utmost regret and remorse. Someone got strong armed into this! He flinches at Kimmila's words and shrinks back, looking between her and Th'ero who just stares at the youth with a cold and furious look. "We did just as we were told to, ma'am. Sir. They paid good. B-but we weren't supposed to go that far. Just scare 'em a bit. N-not that." The injured man groans again and with a cough finally finds his voice. "Shut it!" he hisses at his brother, eyes rolling a bit and glassy with pain. "'N since when do riders speak with such filthy mouths?"

Kimmila points her arrow at the ground but keeps it taut as she stops in front of the babbling man. "Who paid good." It's a statement more than a question, low with a cold fury that hasn't been unleashed in turns. Of the injured one, she just moves her foot subtly towards his injured leg and gives him a /look/. "I'd tread carefully," she growls, "if I were you."

Silence to Kimmila's first question, until a rough shove from Th'ero has the kneeling youth answering despite the glares from the injured man on the ground. "We don't know! They never gave us their names and they had no knot or colours we could see! Please, you have to believe us! They weren't renegades though or holdless type!" he adds, as if that makes it all the better. "Please don't hurt him!" The youth begs of Kimmila, when her threatening proximity to the injured man causes him to flinch away and gasp sharply in pain as his broken leg is jarred. She'll be able to see that it's a bad break, compound fracture. He'll need a Healer soon. "You wouldn't dare." the injured man says through his teeth and through another exhaled and pained breath. There's no real fight left in him, but he can still talk. He glares as best he can at Kimmila, his eyes the only visible thing through his mask. Th'ero's features have set into cold stone, rigid and his posture tense. "So you just accepted business with these people? Despite their obvious shady nature?" he asks with contempt and disgust. The youth can only nod his head and hang in it shame. "We weren't supposed to torch the goods or hurt the old man!" he says again. "That was there doing!" Brotherly love or not, he just sold him out and whoever the third one is gibbering by Varmiroth.

Kimmila arches a brow and looks to Th'ero. "We should continue this conversation at the weyr I think," she mutters, disgusted with this whole business. "I think we should bind these two and then I'll go get the one Varmiroth has cornered."

Th'ero considers Kimmila's suggestion, while the youth only stares at them in abject horror. Not the Weyr! "Agreed." the Weyrleader growls and the youth groans along with his brother's pained sounds. Lifting his head, he frowns heavily and his eyes take on a distracted look, the sign of any rider discussing privately with his dragon. "Wingleader Nishka has Thunderbird at the ready. I had Velokraeth call for a small flight of riders, including Healer trained for transport. Guards are on their way too." Without a word, he nudges the youth over closer to his brother and pulling out some cord, he binds the young man's hands. He goes without protest and the injured man has drifted into semi-unconsciousness. "Go, Wingmate. Bring in the third. But be careful." Th'ero says, looking across at her with a look that is still hardened and cold. By the time she finds the third and convinces him that Varmiroth will not end his life, backup will have arrived.

Kimmila nods and waits for a moment before she turns and stalks off through the forest to apprehend the third man, and then walks back with guards and prisoner in tow, while Varmiroth circles above. "What's the plan for transport?"

The third man will come quietly, save for the gibbering he mutters under his breath. Th'ero takes one look at the third man and snorts in disgust. He won't be any help and the Weyrleader knows it. Motioning for Kimmila to set the third man with the other two, he speaks in a voice too level and calm to be good. "The Guards here," he nods to the men and women who have followed Kimmila back. "Will be escorting the two who can walk back to the Weyr, while Thunderbird Wingriders will see to the transport of this injured man by basket to Healer Hall. His leg needs attention from the Healer's there." A small mercy, perhaps a touch too much given the crime these three men just committed but it's been heard and witnessed by too many for Th'ero to take it back now. "You and I are going to return to my office. We've a report to fill out and much to discuss. Come, Wingmate. You —" Th'ero catches the eye of the Guard officer in charge and the man wisely stands at attention. "Are to make sure they arrive at the Weyr. See them to the brig. Captain Reshir knows what to do. Tell him I expect word soon." The Guard nods with a grim look to his features and salutes both riders before moving to have the prisoners ready for the march back. Th'ero turns then and guides Kimmila out of the forests at a brisk pace. He's mad and more than that. Velokraeth's shadow sweeps by them, but the bronze has to land some distance down the road where the forest recedes enough to allow him to land.

Kimmila nods briskly, giving the trio an /eye/ before she's following alongside Th'ero, arrow put back into her quiver but the bow still tightly strung, ready to be used if the need presents itself. Shaking her head, she growls softly as they move out of earshot. Varmiroth could land closer than Velokraeth can, but he follows after his large ledgemate just the same, not landing until it's wide enough for both of them to do so.

Velokraeth rumbles to Varmiroth as the blue lands, the bronze's position stiff and tense. Readied even though the threat has passed. He'll reach over just the same and nose bump his ledgemate, if not just for reassurance. They're safe, right? Overhead, a small flight of Thunderbird Wingriders can be seen arrowing in on the clearing where the Guards are waiting and where the injured man still waits for transport. Th'ero remains silent as they approach their dragons, though before they part he will firmly take Kimmila by the arm to haul her close. Lowering his head, he growls low by her ear. "My private office, in our weyr. Not the main one. I do not wish to be disturbed yet."

Varmiroth tilts his head to accept the bump, and he returns it in kind with a soft, soothing rumble. They're safe. Kimmila flexes her arm beneath Th'ero's grasp as she's hauled, but she doesn't protest, tilting her head to listen. "Fine," she murmurs in swift, soft spoken agreement before she's breaking away to mount up, buckling in and sending Varmiroth aloft first to give Velokraeth more room to fly.

Velokraeth whuffles towards Varmiroth and the returned bump, backing up a bit as he unfurls his wings. Th'ero nods stiffly to Kimmila and then lets her go so she can mount up on her blue before he's turning to mount up as well and buckle in. The pale bronze will leap up once Varmiroth is in the sky and he will fly fast back to the Weyr. Fast for a bronze, anyways and all too soon he is landing on their ledge. Th'ero dismounts and moves swiftly through the usual routines. Straps are removed and hung, Velokraeth goes to settle himself into the wallow and Th'ero stalks off into their weyr. The fires are stoked back to life in the hearths and then as he slips off his riding gear, placing his sword in its usual spot, he's slipping into his office. Little said, if anything and that is never a good sign.

Kimmila goes through the same routines with Varmiroth, getting him situated and comfortable, rubbing down a few sore spots before she follows Th'ero into the weyr. Leathers are shed, boots left by the fire to dry and warm, and then she follows him into the office, softly closing it behind her with a low sigh. "Well shit."

Th'ero has already seated himself in his chair though he is leaned back and slouched in it, his elbows propped on either side with his hands laced and fingers pressed against his chin and mouth. He's scowling and his eyes flash with disgusted anger and frustration. His temper is roused but not fully ignited and when Kimmila enters with her low sigh he simply snorts. "To put it lightly," he mutters and lowering his hands he gestures for her to approach and take a seat wherever she chooses. He then pulls out some fresh paper and a writing tool but leaves that untouched on the surface of his desk. A hint, perhaps? "Tell me what you think, Wingmate." he asks in a low, firm tone. Don't skimp the details! Which he knows she will not.

Kimmila moves forward and sits in one of the guest chairs across from him. Seems she doesn't want to be a distraction from her usual spot /on/ the desk. "I'm not sure," she says, tapping fingers on the desk's surface, her eyes watching them move against the polished wood. "Either they're lying and it was their work, or there are people out there hiring others to hassle those that are still doing business with us. Either way, the end result is the same and I fear there might be more. Which…what do we do? Send guards to greet traders on the roads? Escort them in? That's hardly welcoming, is it? Or…do we treat it as an isolated incident? I do not know, wingmate, and I'm infuriated. We just put Fort back together!"

Th'ero would not have minded if she sat on his desk and may have expected it, though he does not seem surprised or disappointed when she sits in one of the guest chairs. Business first. His scowl does not lessen, but neither does his temper flare though he shifts in his chair. Grimacing, he exhales heavily and scrubs at his lower jaw. "Neither are favourable outcomes," he agrees. "But perhaps we best offer escorts for traders or holders looking to come in before the snows fall. Not welcoming but what choice do we have? Unless we wish to see all our trade come to a grinding halt because of a bunch of thugs!" He makes a frustrated sound then, shaking his head. "I know!" he says and now there is a little heat in his voice. "There is so much we stand to lose with this! I cannot believe the holders would come to such behaviours and it infuriates me and troubles me that they are hiring out their own - the desperate and easily fooled, I'll assume - for their dirty work. Is this what it's come to then?"

Kimmila shakes her head firmly. "I…" she begins slowly. "Part of me wants to go to Breakwater and demand answers. Ask if it is /them/ who are doing this. If not them, if they know who. Perhaps…if it is them they might want to strike a deal. If it isn't, then they should be just as infuriated as we are that holders are being /harmed/ over this."

"We can't do that, Wingmate." Th'ero says almost immediately, though from the conflicted look on his features he wishes the same. How he would enjoy storming Breakwater Hold right then and demanding audience with the Lord Holder. He knows better now though, even if it rankles him to be feeling so… inactive. "Any action on our part may incriminate us further. Any inaction will as well. It's a tough position and I hate it. Our best option may be to notify Fort Hold immediately and see what Lord Hold Laric has to say on the matter. Or all the Lord Holders for that matter, seeing as those three men would not give us their home hold." Yet. "The Holds loyal to us will not like to hear this." Th'ero mutters and his mouth draws into a grim and tense line. "It will spark conflict."

Kimmila frowns, "Why not?" Then she huffs. "Stupid holds," she mutters under her breath, shaking her head and pushing messy hair away from her face. "A conclave?" she suggests. "Of course it will, and it should. I can't think of /anyone/ who will stand there and say that it was /good/ that a trader was attacked traveling to Fort."

Th'ero gives her a long and level look. "You know why." he drawls. Weyrs cannot interfere with Hold business. It's that frustrating and age old rule. They could break it, but that would only be throwing fuel into the fire and what is just a little fire will explode into something much greater and far beyond their control. "A conclave." Th'ero murmurs and some of the tension leaves his shoulders. Yes, a conclave amongst the Holders. That seems to be agreeable to him and will keep the Weyr involved but more or less neutral. As it should be and has been for so many, many Turns. "Exactly, Wingmate. We bring this to their attention and they'll be grateful for it. So… when Captain Breshir has finished questioning our prisoners, I will have note sent to the Lord Holders." he murmurs and gives her a long look. Acceptable?

Kimmila snorts softly, shaking her head. "I think so, yes," she says with a nod. "Perhaps the Harpers, though. Let /them/ call the conclave. Keep us even /more/ removed. A concerned party, rather than trying to drive the meeting…perhaps that would be best."

Th'ero's brows lift up and he mulls that over for several seconds. "Perhaps." he agrees hesitantly. "Though it's generally known that if the Holders are notified, that Harper Hall is not far behind. IF they don't already know of something." Damnable Harpers! The Weyrleader grimaces. "Holders can call conclave, not the Harper Hall. Regardless, it's their problem now but I want these men to face justice and be answerable for their crimes. Would you mind writing a letter to Lord Laric? I'll send Boromir to him."

Log Incomplete