The Weyrwoman's Quest

Fort Weyr - Hatching Sands
The sands. The most prominant and possibly most important area for a weyr, this section of Fort is no exception to the rule. Completely enclosed from the outside elements by a high rounded ceiling, the golden white sand glitters under the streams of sunlight that manage to make their way in from the upper openings. Ledges abound in the upper areas of the dome, perfect for riders and their dragons to watch the action happening on the ground. At the back of the sands there appears to be a raised section of sand, built over generations by the golds who have laid clutches here, a couch of sorts for basking on while protecting their eggs. Slightly to one side of that, a small nook has been carved for the weyrwoman to take respite from the heat of the cavern.


The morning after the fire dawns cold and icy, with low grey clouds promising snow later on in the day. The sands…are a mess. The galleries a nightmare. Nyalle stands at the end of the tunnel, looking straight ahead to the bog of sand and ash, and looks right to the charred stone that's all that remains of Fort's galleries. Tapestries…history…gone. The young Senior takes a slow breath and rubs a hand over her hair, trying to plot the first course of action.

There's still a bit of snooping to be done by the guards in amongst the mess that's left of the galleries, and Russall, despite being such a junior amongst the guard ranks, is up there now poking around carefully. By chance he happens to look down to where the Weyrwoman is, and he makes his way sharply down to join her. "Weyrwoman Nyalle." His greeting comes with a sharp salute, and he stands to attention in front of her. "I'm sorry for the state of it all, ma'am."

The Weyrsecond arrives shortly after the Weyrwoman does. He's got a few rakes over one shoulder, a pickaxe and a crowbar in the other gloved hand. He's dressed roughly for work, looks like he hasn't slept a wink (and it's true, he hasn't). Booted feet clump hollowly across stone until he reaches the edge of the quagmire that was once hot sands. He could use titles. But Nyalle looks like she needs a hug instead. He'd salute too, but whet the hell. Clunk go the tools in his left hand as he drops them and that is gently placed on his Weyrwoman's shoulder - a gesture of comfort. Russall gets a grave nod, his mouth pulls in a tired sort of smile before he says quietly to the Weyrwoman, "It is rather a mess, isn't it?" He inhales, adding, "But we'll restore it Nyalle. Won't we?" That last part to Russall.

Nyalle blinks herself back to the present to focus on Russall, nodding her head in return to his salute. "Thank you, ah…" She pauses for a moment. "Guard Russall. It's in quite the state." With two clutches. One about to hatch. Her hands fidget with the bottom hem of her tunic as she shifts her weight. "Any word on a cause yet?" she asks, barely glancing at the galleries before she's looking at the sands again. What are they going to /do/? She jumps a little bit when D'ani approaches and puts his hand to her shoulder, but instead of drawing away she sighs heavily and leans into the touch, her hand lifting to cover his and give it a squeeze. "It is," she murmurs. "And we will, but I'm not even sure where to begin. How can we dry sand in the middle of winter?"

D'ani too receives a stiff salute, and Russall nods sharply in response to the question posed to him. "Yes ma'am, sir, we'll have it back to how it was - maybe even better." Is that the right sort of encouragement, D'ani? Because the forever-recruit is hoping it is. "There's theories, ma'am; arson's the favourite for now. I don't know if you can smell that?" He raises his head, drawing in a deep lungful of the still-damp air in the caverns, "but there's a hint of it still left. The thinking is whoever did it laced the place, cushions, tapestries, floors, the lot, so it went up quick." A shake of his head shows how much he disapproves of the whole mess. As for drying sands? "Maybe bit by bit, ma'am? Spread it thin in troughs over fires, perhaps?"

After a gentle squeeze to Nyalle's shoulder, D'ani returns Russall's salute, albeit with a crinkling of warm brown eyes as his smile grows a tad - meant as encouragement to them both. Having spent the rest of the night in the dragon infirmary with Inri and those eggs, he hasn't yet seen the reports of what caused the fires, so he's keenly attentive to Russall's report. "Arson," he frowns. "That's-" he bites back a curse. It's worse somehow to him than setting a forest ablaze. "-criminal." To Nyalle, "Was the hypocaust system damaged? I'd think the heat will eventually dry the sands on it's own. Might be a bit steamy for awhile…" And the sands are littered with charred bits of wood, but that's what the rakes are for.

Nyalle winces slightly at the mention of fires. "Bit by bit…these sands are deep. And the water is down to the bottom. We have to dry everything or else it'll mold…" She looks to D'ani and shakes her head. "As far as I can tell, the heat is still there. Will it dry things fast enough though? Maybe we should turn the sand over, stir it up, let it air out. Maybe get some dragons in here to dig and turn it…" She sniffs, and turns to frown at the galleries, shaking her head. "This…is too close for comfort," she whispers with a frown, fidgeting with her tunic again.

"Sorry." Russall apologies for being the bearer of bad news, even if it's so far unconfirmed bad news. He crouches down to press his palm to the wet sand by his feet, raking his fingers over it thoughtfully. "Can you increase the heat in here? That could help it to dry, if it's possible to do. Your stands are sodden too, ma'am, but they'll dry quick enough on their own. Cushions and so on are all gone, though. There's just char left, really."

"Or," D'ani, ever practical, "We can remove all of the sand, have the dragons fly to the southern beaches, and haul back fresh, clean, dry stuff." It's not within the realm of impossibility and might be faster than trying to dry smoked, soaked, ashy sand. He watches Russall examine the sand, but doesn't do the same. "Might consult the techcraft to see if they have any other ideas too." He deals in cattle, not moving heaven and earth. His gaze travels up to the galleries. "Plenty of work do do before the carpenters can rebuild your benches." Turning to Nyalle, "Don't suppose the Harper Hall had any schematics of your tapestries in their records?" It would be reasonable if they had. "For… recreation purposes to aid the weavers?"

Nyalle looks down at the sands with a slow sigh. "Not sure how we could increase the heat unless we brought in braziers and lit fires…" And that idea doesn't appeal. She looks at D'ani, and gives a small nod. "I'd thought of that as well, but it seems so…against tradition to just replace it all." And she's fighting against that. Her nose wrinkles at the mention of the techcraft, and then nods absently. "I'll have to ask our Harpers if they had any, or if we have any records or images of those tapestries. If not, we can commission new ones…" Not ideal, but it's something. She looks at the sand again, uncertain.

Russall nods at D'ani's suggestion of Southern sands - he likes the idea. "Instead of replacing it all though, ma'am, you could perhaps just replace enough to put the clutches back onto? And then the rest can be dried, cleaned, set back in place when it's ready without having to rush it." He brushes the sticky wet sand off his fingers and onto his trousers, then looks thoughtfully up at the remains of the galleries' decor. "The soot's not all ingrained up there, y'know? A bit of soapsand and water and a scrubbing brush, and I think it'll all look a whole lot better in half a day than it does right now."

D'ani watches Nyalle patiently. How does she think the sand got there in the first place? But he doesn't argue, not with the Weyrwoman. "Okay well, whatever you decide, I'll be available to help," he says briskly. She'll figure it out eventually. They're all in a bit of shock yet. He salutes her, leans those rakes against the wall, leaving them for the crews coming in, nods at Russall, agreeing with his assessment of even partial replacement. D'ani is no engineer! But he observes calmly, "Sooner we get those eggs back onto the sands, the better for the eggs and the sooner the queens will settle down." No pressure Nyalle! That said, he heads up to the galleries to start knocking apart what is burnt beyond repair to be carted out in smaller sections.

Nyalle turns to watch D'ani go, her shoulders slumping a bit as if she were chastised. She fidgets some more and again looks around the sands with a low sigh. No pressure, right. Chewing at the inside of her cheek, she takes a deep breath. "We're going to replace the sand," she finally murmurs. "All of it. A fresh start." She looks up at the galleries, lips pursed. "Dragonriders will tend to the sands, residents to the galleries once the Guard is done with their investigation. Right now, I need a few riders to scout out possible places to get sand. Preferably from Fort's coastline, but…" Fort's coasts are more rocky than sandy. "Perhaps further south. Or Igen."

"Yes ma'am!" It may not be Russall's place to take notes, but since he has a notepad and pen in hand anyway… why not? The recruit scribbles down as the Weyrwoman talks, nodding along. "I think the investigation's got a way to go yet, ma'am, but don't take my word on it; I can request an update on your behalf as soon as you need one, ma'am, so you know where we're at." He takes down the assignment of duties to different Weyr resident segments, and then the Igen bit, too. "Depends what colour sand you want, ma'am? Doesn't Igen have more reddish sand typically? Ista's black could be nice. The eggs'll look good against it, if I may say so."

Nyalle is silently pleased that Russall is taking this down. Maybe she needs an assistant. "Well, the eggs don't need the galleries to hatch, so that will happen when it's able to. I'd appreciate an update but I'm sure Th'ero is being informed." She looks thoughtfully at the ruined sands with a soft sigh. "There's politics to consider as well. Sand for a hatching ground is…something special." At least to her. "And I would like the color to stay the same. Golden, and white. That's what we'll look for."

"Golden and white, like… Nerat and Southern." Russall adds his own notes - recommendations? - alongside the Weyrwoman's directives. "Yes ma'am. Where do you think Fort's came from, originally? Maybe the same origin would be preferable?" He flips a page in his notepad, revealing a less than savoury image… which he quickly flips past. No-one saw that, right? "The officers are keeping in touch with the Weyrleader, ma'am. I'm still just a recruit."

Nyalle shakes her head. "I don't know. I could have someone check the records and see if they can find where the Sands originally came from…" But she's doubtful such a record exists. She didn't see anything, she's still looking around. "I know." A pause, and then she actually looks at him. "Why are you still just a recruit?"

Russall hrms, tapping his pen off his chin. "Maybe there's something in the files at Landing." He takes that down, a reminder for later. Then, when he's asked about his rank, he looks at the Weyrwoman and shrugs. "Never bothered to try for a promotion, ma'am. It's hard work." And he's lazy, it would seem. "I've been doing it for close to 2 turns now, I think."

Nyalle looks up at the galleries, and then to the sands once more. "Alright. I need to go get riders going on this." She holds her hand out for his notepad. Or at least the pages he's taken notes on.

Those pages are torn out neatly along their perforated edge, and Russall hands them over to the Weyrwoman. "Yes ma'am, that sounds like a plan, ma'am. And I ought to get back to the barracks to see where, if I can help. There's always chaos in there when something this big comes along." But he doesn't seem put off by it - invigorated, more like. "Want me to pass a message on to anyone for you, ma'am?"

Nyalle shakes her head and offers the guard a smile. "No, but thank you, Russall." With that, she is also turning to leave, already rousing Kayeth to spread the news.

"As you wish, ma'am." Russall gives her a smart salute as she turns to leave, waiting a moment or two before following in her footsteps.


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