Mud, Blood, and Tears [Vignette]
Who Thys, Rhenesath, Velokraeth
What Thys and Rhenesath come across something unexpected.
When Summer, Turn 2711
Where Fort Weyr Foothills, Fort Weyr Coverage Zone

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Fort Weyr - Tir Na nOg
Located in the administration complex, this ledge is reached by walking up stone stairs carved into the bowl wall, passing several other ledges before reaching the wide tongue of stone that shapes this one. Worn smooth by centuries of time, wind, rain and dragon hide, its finish is almost glossy, shimmering with minerals deep within the basalt. The ledge transitions into a massive cave that shelters the queen's wallow, and from there there is a sturdy wooden door that leads to the inner weyr.

Step inside, and you'll find that, as with any of Fort's leadership weyrs, this one is spacious and well appointed. Already furnished with fine hardwood furnishings, the new occupant is of course welcome to alter things. A sitting area cozies up to the large fireplace, stones from the mountains creating the facade and the hearth. There is a small kitchenette with simple storage and workspace, and further back is a nook that could easily be used as an office, complete with a rod for hanging a curtain. The far back of the cave has a small hallway, through which the modest bedroom and precious bathing chamber are located, the bath carved into the floor itself with running hot and cold water.
All that being said, this weyr is /cramped/. Not that it's full of furniture, but it's full of /stuff/. There's a bookshelf overflowing with old books and records, half of them nearly disintegrated and most of them being based in poetry. Shelves are crammed full of knick-knacks and various other *things*, stuff piled upon stuff piled upon stuff. No doubt there are treasures hidden within, but it'll take a lot of time to sort through it all and find things worth keeping. Might be easier just to chuck the lot.


Rhenesath's soft whisper in her mind woke Thys up; the familiar feathery touch, the forge-heat, the coolness of a mountain breeze. The morning greeting between the 10-turn bonded pair needed no words, just as Thys needed no prompt to know from her lifemate that Rukbat's rays were just breaking over the rim of the world.

Thys rolled over on her bed, bumping into the unexpectedly warm body beside her.

Rhen? Why is he still here?

A soft snore from the brownrider beside her told her that he was still sleeping, and, cringing at the thought of waking him and having to deal with awkward morning-after conversations, she slowly rolled herself to the edge of the bed, dropping tip-toes to the cold stone floor to pad away into the bathroom.

He should've had the decency to sneak out, she grumbled to Rhenesath while slipping as silently as possible into her leathers, running fingers through her growing-out hair and carrying her boots down the corridor from her sleeping chamber to the living room. Only once she'd passed through the door and out into Rhenesath's couch did Thys allow herself to pause to slide her feet into her boots, lacing them loosely before striding over to greet her lifemate. She pressed herself to the dusky gold's muzzle, leaning in and breathing the familiar scent, the heat and spice of her dragon's hide, the warmth of her breath.

Silently, Thys buckled Rhenesath's straps into place, leaning in whenever possible against her lifemate.

« Shall I ask Castorath to wake him? »

No, love - wait until we're gone. It'll be awkward. I don't want to deal with it.

With the ease of many turns of practice, Thys mounted up and buckled herself in, giving Rhenesath the command to leave. The gold leapt away from her ledge, letting gravity take hold for a thrilling moment before bringing her wings down in a powerful downbeat - and then they were off. Up, away, and climbing. Rhenesath greeted the watchdragon, climbing higher still than that lofty perch before Thys gave the direction to jump into the darkness of between.

One.

Two.

Three


Fort Weyr - Mountain Pass /^^ - Rocky Foothills
The sounds of a forest grow quieter as the tree line starts to thin and lower, while the plants grow in sparse clumps of shrubbery. Audible now is the silence of the mountain terrain or the rush of wind sliding over the landscape. With the low lying valley of forest below, where a tavern, shops, and a camp have been built, there is a noticeable but gradual incline to the earth; felt here by those who walk the beaten path.
Rugged flowers dot the hills between the rocks and boulders which have fallen loose of the towering precipitous mountain sides. A mixture of tough vegetation roots itself in the stony ground, from long browning grasses to plants that sprawl over the surface of rock staying low to avoid the full force of the harsh winds which often blow.
There is a pathway cutting though the vegetation, obviously having been traversed greatly to make a thin trail of dirt where nothing grows. The path itself meanders itself through the rocky foothills toward the promises of the mountains. Stretching out ahead, are those looming castles of rock with their sharp pinnacles poised like regal crowns, hiding many wonders out of sight.


There was slightly more light over the foothills of Fort's mountains when they emerged there, but still enough darkness to leave them shadowy and mysterious, with little pockets of summertime fog nestling in the dips and troughs as the mountains petered out into flatter land. A flock of ovines scattered when Rhenesath swooped low over them, teasing them with a guttural roar as Thys laughed. This was their space - where the rolling hills grew into mountains, where the flocks grazed, where the streams burbled and the birds sang a dawn chorus - a choral welcome that would sink into silence whenever Rhenesath's shadow was cast over their roosting spots.

They'd been flying for about an hour before Rhenesath spotted the caravan. Settled in the crease between two rising hills, not far from one of the mountain passes, six vans were arranged around a dead campfire.

No fire? That's odd…

« No people, » Rhenesath commented in reply, sharing a sense of emptines.

Not even sleeping? No-one inside? It can't just be empty.

But Rhenesath was adamant that there was no-one there, and as they circled lower to have a closer look, Thys began to believe her.

That door's open. And the breeze was making the 'van door swing back and forth, the creak of hinges just audible from the height at which Rhenesath circled. Take me down, Rhen. I want to look.

Something about it all just wasn't… right. With Rhenesath as close as she could get, Thys cautiously approached the caravan ring, wishing she'd had the foresight to bring something with her beyond the little knife that was permanently in her riding boot - something reassuringly large, like her long staff.

« You wouldn't have needed it if we hadn't seen this, » Rhenesath reassured Thys that the decision to go weaponless was the right one, her thoughts as comforting as a warm, feathery hug. « There's no-one there. You won't need it. »

But what if…?

« I'm here. »

Thys passed the first caravan, its door tightly shut and with marks on it that looked like they had been pierced - the wood was splintered unusually. She noted it mentally, then walked on, circling around to the next caravan, sidestepping the churned up mud that looked far too messy to have been caused just by the turning of wheels and runner's hooves—

Rhenesath - there are no runners. No draybeasts - nothing to pull the carts. Can you smell them?

Through their mental connection, Thys knew there was no scent. No fresh scent, anyway - what was there was barely traceable, washed away by an overnight shower that came across as fresh and green in Rhenesath's thoughts.

Maybe we should tell Th'ero…

That was when she picked up on another scent in Rhenesath's mind. A not unfamiliar one, but a completely unexpected one: blood.

Where?

The gold dragon moved in closer to the caravans, almost bumping into one of them in order to get into a position that would allow her to crane her neck around to flick her ichor-green tongue out at the spatter of red against one caravan's side. Thys joined her, one hand on Rhenesath's nose as she winced at the patch, browned already and sheltered enough to have not been affected by the weather.

Tell Velokraeth.

The ring of hammer on anvil and the blaring heat of the forge may wake the Weyrleader's bronze from slumber given the early hour, or perhaps he's already forsaken sleep; either way, the klaxxon call of Fort's youngest gold is unmistakable in its urgency. « Mine says you must come. » A quick-flicker of images relays the situation at super-speed: dawn, flying over Fort's hills, the caravan… the churned mud, the blood, and Thys amongst it all picking up an arrowhead from the mire. « She says now. » The heat intensifies with Rhenesath's urgency, searingly hot and demanding. « Bring a guard. »

Indeed, Velokraeth had been sleeping and his response to Rhenesath is sluggish at best to start. Her urgency is noted with a heavily honey-wined touch, sluggish and yet so comforting and warm. « Easy there, my dear. Whatever is the matter and why must I wake at such holy an hour? It is not yet time for patrol and Kayeth's eggs do not hatch. » Dry sarcasm aside, he will focus sharply at those images and when there comes the sight of churned mud and blood? The bronze is FAR more alert and no longer trying to push aside the heat of her mind. « Oh, what have you two found yourselves in? » He sighs heavily, sobering again. « He'll bring the Captain. He says we will be there shortly. Reassure yours that help is on the way. »

"Rhenesath…" Thys speaks out loud, purely for the comfort of hearing her own voice. "There's more blood." With Rukbat having risen enough to cast more light over the scene, it was increasingly obvious that something had happened. Thys rubbed the arrowhead against her leathers, cleaning off the mud rhythmically - a way to calm her mind and enable thought as she took it all in. A second caravan sported blood-spatters. Another bore marks of someone having clearly hacked at the door, with the handle and locking device missing and a gaping hole left in their place.

"Is Th'ero coming?"

« They're coming. The Weyrleader comes, and he brings the Captain. »

The hairs on her arms began to raise beneath her jacket as goosebumps covered her skin. Thys shivered, wrapping her arms around herself.

I don't like this. Something happened here. Something bad. I don't want to be here.

She began making her way back to Rhenesath, picking her way through the mud so as not to slip - when suddenly a THUD and a wail from a nearby van made her jump out of her skin. Thys let out a strangled squeak, slipping in the mud as she started running towards Rhenesath, only to end up tripping and scrambling up from her knees in a display of pure gracelessness.

What is it?!

At Rhen's side she began to clamber up the straps, only to realise that her lifemate wasn't as panicked as her.

Rhenesath! We need to go. Now!

« No. » A firm anvil-strike clang - not a sound Thys herself is used to from her bond. « Listen. » Rhenesath relays the sound as she hears it, then flicks through the picture-book of Thys's mind to bring up a similar sound… a sound from the nursery at the Weyr. A sound made by Inri's Maiona, by Thys's own nieces and nephews.

"It's a baby?"

Pausing, midway up to settling onto her lifemate's back, Thys closed her eyes to calm herself. The rushing thud of her heart filled her ears, and she slowly counted to 10 to relax herself. Once her breathing had returned to normal, she could concentrate… and there it was. Obvious as the nose on her face - the sound of a baby crying. Muffled, certainly, but audible enough.

"Faranth. Oh, Faranth's fu-…" She jumped down, asking Rhenesath to stick as close as she could. "Which one? Which van is it coming from?" Taking advantage of her lifemate's superior hearing, Thys quickly located the right one - the caravan with the door hacked open.

Thys pushed the door open cautiously, only to have it catch on something. Throwing her shoulder against it got it to budge a little… it also made the crying stop briefly - only for it to start again, more urgently this time.

"I'm coming. Dear Faranth, stop crying, I'm coming…"

Again Thys threw her weight against the door, ignoring the hurt it caused. There'd be bruises tomorrow, certainly. Again, and again, and again - fifth time being the charm when the block shifted and there was enough space for the goldrider to slip through into the dark caravan where the wailing was at a constant level of desperate screech.

I can hardly see, she bespoke Rhenesath, while waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. Common sense struck through the addledness that the crying caused, and Thys began fumbling her way about to find the shutters on the windows, pulling one back to let the early morning light flood in.

A chest had been blocking the door. It lay on its side, rugs, sheets and clothing scattered all around it. It had obviously fallen from the low shelf behind, where it was far too wide to have been settled solidly. And with nothing else in there save for a bed, it was also obvious that the source of the crying was within the chest.

Rhen… what do I //do?//

Thys wasn't used to feeling scared, and yet, in that very moment, her guts felt like jelly and her legs were unwilling to move her forward to open the chest.

« Breathe. It's only a baby. »

That's what's so bloody scary about it. What in Faranth's sharding name is a //baby doing here when there's obviously been a -// Fight? Coup? Alien abduction? - Faranth knows what. Let's wait for Th'ero.

« It's a baby. » The clang of the hammer falling again, and a heated push. Do it.

Trembling, Thys somehow managed to get her legs to work again. She stepped over a rumpled rag rug, kicked aside a pile of clothing, and bent down to pull a sheet away from where it covered part of the chest's lid. With the chest on its side, lifting was not going to be easy… and the situation made Thys smirk.

Just as well I've been practicing with A'ster. All the hours spent with the brownrider practicing her long staff skills had already paid off in terms of muscle built, which Thys put to good use in hoisting the chest up onto its right side with the help of a makeshift lever, making it all the easier to open.

With a bit of persuasion (aka, force), Thys finally managed to open the chest. The smell hit her first - stale vomit. Dirty nappy. Then the sound: a desperate wailing made all the more louder now without the wood to muffle it. And the source of the noise - a toddler, filthy from being in trapped within its own muck for Faranth knew how long. It made her want to gag.

"Oh Faranth." Thys had to turn her head - and when that wasn't enough, she had to step to the door to gulp in fresh air. Was that Velokraeth circling overhead that she saw? Without checking - and assuming it to be him, given that Rhenesath gave no warning, Thys drew in a deep breath to hold as she ducked back into the van proper to grab the baby.

With no experience in dealing with such small people, she set the little one down on the van's bed, scooped up one of the fallen sheets, and worked out a quick sling of sorts - a way to carry the kid without having to touch it. Him. Her? Faranth, she had no idea. If only it would stop crying.

We need Mirinda. And where is Th'ero?!

With the stench from the chest overwhelming her, Thys grabbed the sling with the baby and stepped back out into the fresh air, drinking it in by the mouthful. For a few moments, the sling she carried was silent - a scared sort of silence, broken only by whimpers and snotty sniffling.

"Thank Faranth." Thys breathed a sigh of relief.

The toddler started crying again.

"Whoever's coming needs to bring food and water." It was probably hungry. Thirsty. That was reason enough to cry, right? Rhenesath passed the message along, while Thys struggled with the toddler trying to escape from it's hanging nest. Having managed to stand just long enough, it reached out to curl an arm around Thys's leg… where it clung tightly, wailing.

"Oh Faranth, no. Best ask them to send a nanny too."

The situation may have been dire, but at least Rhenesath was happy - she who had pushed for turns for her rider to have a baby, only for one to appear unexpectedly.

"Finally," Thys muttered as the sky above began to fill with dragons, even as the crying and leg-clinging continued. And don't you go getting any ideas, she added sharply to Rhenesath, giving the gold a look. A 'this is not happening we don't have a baby no way' look.

To be continued…


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