Fort Weyr - Training Complex

The remnants of a historic collapse are apparent here, as the slope face of the bowl has a predominant downward curvature. It's likely long ago, that a cavern larger than any Fort currently has was where the training complex currently is. A probable cave in triggered a fissure on the bowl wall which lead to a great chunk of it dislodging, thus creating the rounded slope.
Yet, many centuries later, all that remains to give evidence is the pocket made into the bowl wall. It seems that the inhabitants of Fort Weyr have made best of the created space. Rock on the ground proper has long since cleared, but pebbles and loose shale are constantly underfoot. Still, the sprig of some green leafed vegetation isn't too out of the ordinary in these parts, as long as it doesn't get trampled by the comings and goings.
It's clear that this area has been designated for the training of young minds, whether human or dragon. Surrounded by rock on all side, it's like a personal weyr bowl for the youngsters to minimize distraction and danger. The candidate barracks have been built across from the Weyrling barracks, so that one group can educate the next. Finally, placed in the center of the two entrances of the opposing barracks, near the rock face, is a statue with a memorial plaque.

Drizzle. That annoying inbetween (no pun intended) that is neither clear nor rain but just /there/ and enough to make most travel outdoors miserable. Add in a chilly spring-time air and an overcast sky and one would think it rather gloomy. But as the morning wears on, the drizzle will finally ebb enough to give everyone a break from the clinging dampness, not that the ground is already soaked through (and any poor soul caught outside). M'icha has no doubt had the Weyrlings roused since dawn, sending most out on patrol duties, the rest kept back for whatever (un)pleasant tasks the Weyrlingmaster had for them. For one lucky soul though, they're slated for Between lessons — cleared at last to take the beginning steps towards their Senior rank. Waiting outside in the training fields, now quite soggy and muddy, is the bulky, boxy and misshappened Velokraeth. The pale bronze has settled himself almost stoic-like on his thick haunches, which does little to flatter his much stunted and slightly bowed front limbs. But he holds himself with a sort of pride, straps securely fasten and ready and his rider standing next to him on one of the few reasonably "dry" patches of ground. Th'ero is dressed in his flight gear, helmet and goggles in hand, as he waits for their selected Weyrling charge to emerge. The Weyrleader's mood seems grim at best, his features set in a neutral but heavy look, thoughtful and perhaps, subtly and hidden, apprehensive. So far, his track record in this with the other Weyrlings given to him have been… Well, they have not gone entirely as well as he had hoped.

It is D'ani and Dremkoth who emerge from the barracks. The human half of the pair is doing his best not to look as somber as he feels. He's failing miserably, having focused intently on those visualization lessons as if his life depends on it - because it does. His and Dremkoth's name on the duty roster for the Betweening lesson has seen him go over every inch of hide and harness, then hit the books (not that he hasn't been doing that for months now) with an intensity that by comparison pales his usual study habits. Caring for hide, feeding, leathercare, attending physical ailments - not quite new concepts to this beastcrafter - had all been readily and easily absorbed and adapted from previous experience. Guiding a dragon Between safely, well. He's out of his element on this one. He isn't one to be timid, but brash confidence is not his way either. So he slogs though the mud towards where Th'ero and Velokraeth wait with a pensive expression on his face. Dremkoth flows over the ground ahead of his lifemate, eager to get this show on the road.

Velokraeth offers a low rumble to Dremkoth as the younger bronze and his lifemate emerge from the barracks. The pale bronze seems pleased that it is this pair that joins them, a chuffing noise soon following as if amused by some inner train of thought. While waiting, Th'ero had glanced up to those overcast skies with a heavy frown, displeased it seems in the way fate has played with the weather on this day. But he not about to voice his misgivings, though as the Weyrleader lowers his eyes to fix them on the arriving pair, his shoulders almost drop in relief. Almost. "Morning, D'ani," Th'ero greets, unaware of the bronze Weyrling's somber mood and sudden intensely focused study moments before (and months prior). He won't be oblivious for long, but for now formalities must be exchanged and for that the Weyrleader focuses on. A salute is given, if not just to be respectful though the gesture never seems to sit well with Th'ero. Stepping forwards, he will wait until the younger bronze is settled before cutting straight to the examination. "I see Dremkoth is prepared… Straps look in order. Grown well too and no dryness or cracks to the hide. Good." he murmurs in a low tone, only side glancing once over his shoulder to D'ani while the procedure is executed without pause. Turning back to the Weyrling, he adds with a vague smile that really is nothing more than the slightest twitch of one corner of his mouth. "And yourself? Are you ready?" A touch blunt, but Th'ero has never been socially relaxed and it's clear from his posture that he is awkward — and knows it.

Dremkoth responds to Velokraeth with a cheerful bugle that clearly communicates his pleasure in seeing the older bronze and for this particular exercise. To him, this is grand adventure and he doesn't get why D'ani is so serious about it. This is what dragons were meant to do, after all. He's there first, turning his head over his shoulder to whuff a 'hurry up' to his lifemate before turning his muzzle back to the pair waiting for them and snorts as if to say, 'Humans walk too far slowly'. D'ani, walking at his usual pace, arrives and draws up to snap a crisp salute to Th'ero in return and nod a formal greeting to his bronze. "Thank you, yes I am as ready as I'll ever be," he replies, mouth suddenly dry. It can't hurt that he heard of Crosenturath's Betweening session and maybe a little reasoning leaking into the edges of his concern for danger is that if the blue is still alive, he might live through this too. He's standing straight, with his helmet under left arm, gloves and goggles dangling from the fingers of the same hand for the duration of the inspection. He doesn't seem to mind Th'ero's awkwardness, perhaps in this situation it matches his own.

But it is a grand adventure! Or at least the gateway to them. Just have to get over the notion that one mistake may mean your death. But at least it's a quick death? Sometimes. Velokraeth accepts Dremkoth's cheerful bugle with another rumble, shared in the pleasure it seems in seeing the younger bronze so eager. This is good to the large, ugly-shaped bronze and something he's likely discussing that very second with Th'ero. Velokraeth will chuff in a chuckle-like manner to Dremkoth's implied comment, a very much 'indeed' like reply if any. "Good. We won't linger then. Once mounted up, I want you and Dremkoth to fly high above the Weyr and then veer towards the southern forests until the mountain ranges there are visible. Velokraeth and I will follow to your right side, so you will be flying point. He will relay the next commands to Dremkoth. Understood?" Any questions? It'll be D'ani's last chance it seems as the Weyrleader falls silent after the flood of firmly spoken words that escape him. Indeed, if Cresenturath can do it, then that is some comfort! Waiting only long enough to overheard and answer any of the bronze weyrling's questions, Th'ero will then give him a firm, crisp nod and without any further word — no reassurance, no compliments or suggestions — the bronzerider turns to his lifemate and donning his helmet and goggles, grasps the straps and mounts up with practiced ease.

Oh yeah, that might classify as bad day, but D'ani will do his best not to wind up encased in stone. The rumors have circulated, with each repetition more gory than the last. The instructions seem clear enough, so D'ani simply nods and pulls himself up Dremkoth's side, taking more care than usual to clip himself into the flight straps once he is settled into the saddlepad. Each connection gets an extra wiggle and tug. Yep, secure! No falling off Between. Gulp! After helmet and gloves are pulled on, goggles settled, he takes a deep breath, gives Th'ero a thin smile from whited lips, lifts his arm and pumps his fist once to signal their lift-off. Dremkoth is a coiled spring the entire time D'ani fussily prepares, almost a-wriggle by the time he's given permission to fly. His night skies blossom with fireworks, light exploding to dispel the darkness thereof as he conveys his excitement to Velokraeth, « Let's do this! » He kicks off, wide wings reach for the skies, beating strongly and steadily until they're at an altitude that is high above the Weyr. Elevation is dictated by the cloud ceiling, which they remain under so they have a good visual where they glide to await Velokraeth and Th'ero to join formation.

One can only imagine what rumors and gory tales circulate. Th'ero has likely heard his fair share as a Weyrling and later as a rider. No one can say which are true, save for the only one relic of evidence of that poor, poor weyrling pair entombed forever in stone. Likewise, the Weyrleader takes his time, in no particular rush though his nerves are likely just as tense as D'ani's and every second and minute feels like an eternity. Gloves are slipped on and hands just gripping the straps firmly when the bronze Weyrling offers a thin smile and the classic signal, one of which is returned with the proper signal of reply. Lead on, they'll follow. Velokraeth's wings flare open to their fullest, pulling back just as the pale bronze crouches on his thick and heavy haunches at at Dremkoth's cue, he lurches up into the sky. Wings sweep in powerful strokes, but all the same it takes sometime before the older bronze is in position and once they have flown in formation steadily for a few more breaths, does he finally bespeak the other. « Take the image I give you and hold it. You will follow me, but only when I say it is time. Understand? » Velokraeth's mind will join Dremkoth's, brushing against those night skies and overlapping it briefly like one viewing it through a glass of crisp white wine. His tone is just as mellowing and honeyed, rich and firm but warm, enveloping all in some unseen cocoon that is more mental and emotional than imagery. The excitement he picks up on, amused and encouraging. Unlike his rider, the bronze is not shy in unmasking the truth of things. All will be well — if they do as they're told. « This is where we must go. » Simple. The bond is strengthened without permission, taboo forgiven for necessity as Velokraeth overrides Dremkoth's skies to replace it with another — one that is real. Partly cloudy, the bright blue-green sky is stark contrast to the red butte, that classic icon, below. No detail is left untouched, everything focuses into place with a stark intensity from the position of the sun to the shadows and the lay of the land below. « Do you understand? » Last chance before the countdown. Th'ero turns slightly in his straps, head craning up and to the side slightly and though his eyes may be hidden by the goggles there is no mistaking he's watching D'ani intently now. Anything to give the Weyrleader doubt… and Velokraeth will abort the link and they will land. But for now comes that hushed anticipation.

Dremkoth is more than ready, but other than chuffing his excitement to gogogoGO, he glides until Velokraeth joins them. Then they veer towards the southern forests as instructed with D'ani keeping the young bronze from making it a race, conserving the bronze's muscle power when instead Dremkoth wants to surge ahead in all-out effort to get to the spot already. They're sedate as they go, for the unknown weighs heavily upon D'ani and who knows what might conspire to need a sudden burst of energy? When they approach the assigned spot, Dremkoth slows to a glide and curves his neck to peer behind him at Velokraeth. « I undestand. I will wait for you. » Dremkoth's skies disperse as a dark fog dissipates before a liquid sun, the picture shimmers then clarifies and he passes it along to his lifemate while holding it in his own mind. Then strangely gripped, the odd sensation draws a barked chuff of surprise and a lash of his tailtip from the young bronze and simultaneously a tiny yip from D'ani, who quickly turns it into a cough. Deep breaths from both of them, the rider's shoulder's relax and the pair settles. They are ready.

Did Th'ero forget to mention it was going to be a guided lesson? He must have and not purposely. Dremkoth's reaction to the odd sensation, coupled by D'ani's is enough to have even Velokraeth relaying sheepishly over the link without disturbing the image too much. « My apologies. It is for your safety." As close to holding hands, really, to cross the street. « The second jump, I will not be so strong. Relax now and concentrate. » As if preparing for some great surge, the pale bronze's wings beat in a slow but powerful sweep. Beat, glide, beat. Th'ero settles himself in the straps, confident that the bronze pair have the image and are not too shaken by nerves or lack the control necessary. Yet the concern worms it's way in all the same and clenching his jaw tight against the urge to simply end it there, he instead gives the go ahead. Gloves grip the straps tightly and silently in the Weyrleader's head, he wishes D'ani all the luck. « Focus. » One heartbeat. « Think where you must go. » Two. The red butte, the sky, the sun, the warmth. « Go. Follow me. » There is an indescribable lurch then, borne of an instinct that cannot really be put the words. Velokraeth is simply there one moment and then gone. Blackness, like that Harper's song every child is raised on. Cold and three seconds pass… And they emerge high over the red butte below. Barely into a stroke of his wings and Velokraeth's oversized head is already craning, whirling eyes scanning the skies and a gesture that is mirrored by his rider and the part Th'ero despises the most.

Oh no. Th'ero didn't forget to mention that it was a guided lesson. They've done some of these on the ground with M'icha and so really they should not have been so startled. « It's okay, » Dremkoth answers with his mind still full of that image, « Aycheth's touches are… » How to say? Surely not obscure or feeble or even particularly gentle for the man would not be the Weyrlingmaster if they were. « …not as… vigorous as yours are. I shall be prepared better next time. » Indeed, the young bronze has the steadiness of stone – D’ani’s firm control – beneath that prevalent buoyancy of excitement that laps back through the link. Then his mind syncs with that of the older bronze, carrying a taste of D'ani's tense clarity. The weyrling leans forward in readiness as if they are to leap a vast hurdle instead of skip through the span of half a continent. The weyrling pair's mind is filled with the rusty stone dome against a vividly blue sky, heat waves shimmering, baked desolate plains beyond, the scent of dry grasses and sun-warmed rock and they follow. Engulfed by the void, Between is all they've heard it was and more. Aching emptiness of sensation save for the bone-chilling cold, alone together in a way they have never, ever been save for that (yay for vigorous!) mindlink of Velokraeth's guiding them. The skies the Weyrleader and his bronze scan for their appearance shimmers with a flicker of distortion a beat after they've emerged as D'ani and Dremkoth erupt from Between - safe and sound! D'ani's exhultant whoop is cut off as the young bronze plummets like a stone. Oh right they were FLYING when they went into Between and must continue to do that to stay airborne, right? Wings flail, claws scrabble fruitlessly at the air for purchase and the flapping brings him back into formation elevation with a sheepish, « I'm good! I'm good! » - He could have come out into a glide but nooooo, that didn't occur to him.

What is /with/ the dropping like a stone? Did M'icha not warn them to keep flying? The Weyrleader pair's relief is short lived for the third time in a row as they watch Dremkoth emerge (thank Faranth, they're not lost!) and then down the bronze goes. Velokraeth gives a strangled noise half-grunt, half startled rumble as the young bronze plummets. Th'ero shifts in his straps, pulling himself into a lower seated position as he directs his lifemate to plunge after them — only to have to pull up smartly as Dremkoth remembers the crucial necessities of flight. « DO remember to fly next time? » Velokraeth admonishes, though his tone is not all seriousness. There is an undercurrent of amusement there, mirth and humor rippling through. « But well done. No lagging and despite… failing to /fly/, you both have survived your first guided jump. » That must be half Velokraeth and half Th'ero speaking there, but it's genuine. The Weyrleader is pleased, if not a little shot for his nerves. Lifting his arm up, he signals to D'ani as the wind would only snatch the words away. All is well?

M'icha surely must have. But of course, caught up in the adventure in tasting the sensation of Betweening and knowing that HE'S WEARING HIS BIG BOY BRITCHES, Dremkoth has forgotten. Darnitall. The young bronze is blowing and tossing his head, all proud of himself, puffing out his chest when his rider thumps his shoulder. « Flying, yes. That would be a good thing to remember, » admits Dremkoth, still a touch sheepish amidst the droll humor in his reply. He's wise enough not to laugh outright, though. D'ani is in the midst of returning that 'all's well' signal when Dremkoth trumpets, lifts his wings and pumps them once, the forward surge causing the weyrling to lurch and grab the lines again. The bronze executes a barrel roll before resuming a sedate glide, including Velokraeth in his triumphant, « WE DID IT!!! » That's really for D'ani. HE knew all the time that they would make it through Between. After all, that's what dragons do.

Velokraeth can't help but get caught up in Dremkoth's pride and excitment. Could be the continued link or simply because the older bronze isn't a huge stick in the mud like his rider. Rumbling in amusement, the pale bronze keeps pace with his younger counterpart, easing them into a continued steady glide as they allow the red butte to pass closer and closer beneath them. Th'ero gives a nod of his head to D'ani's return signal, only to start just as much as Velokraeth does when Dremkoth surges forwards and… barrel rolls? No thanks. The pale bronze only snorts and does not go diving down after the pair this time. Let them burn off some of that pent up excitement and triumph! Once the sedate glide resumes and formation is reset, Velokraeth replies with a tone that is once again a blend of his own and Th'ero's. « Once. You did it once. The real test comes now. We must return home. Unless you wish to spend weeks of flying straight across the plains of Keroon? » he drawls in sarcasm, but it's a playful nudge of humor that takes the edge of it off. « Now. Focus again on this image. » No guesses or prize for what it is. It's Fort Weyr of course, from the angle that they had left only reversed. The skies are overcast, which makes it difficult to secure the details of the stone and muddy grounds below. Enough is there though, or else Th'ero would not have selected it. « Do you have it? » Velokraeth asks in a firm tone that implies that there is no shame in saying 'no'.

There isn't as much time as D'ani and Dremkoth would like to gaze down at that unique and colorful rock formation and while there's a return incredulous tickle of, « COULD we?! » at the thought of flying straight across the Keroon plains to home (talk about adventure!), Dremkoth settles to focus on that shared image. Moments pass while he allows it so settle into his mind, the already-familiar bowl, different today. D'ani's firm, calming touch is mingled in the young bronze's reply, « I see it. » Vigorous! Velokraeth will forever be thought of so in at least D'ani's mind, for Dremkoth will probably forget in time. « Murky grey rocks and mud, cloud-covered dreary dampness. » Fort Weyr.

Velokraeth is… baffled. Completely and utterly baffled by Dremkoth's return to what the pale bronze meant more as a warning threat. « … /why/ would you want to? » Comes his flat tone and incredulous, before his mind explodes in mirth and laughter. « But you could! » Pause. « On your own time. When you are riders. » Because it will be a /warm/ day Between if Velokraeth ever agrees to fly that much distance straight. Adventure or not! Th'ero gives his bronze a smart smack to his neck, which earns a sharp snort in return. Focus! So as D'ani and Dremkoth work on the image and Velokraeth hones in on it to correct but they are minute and likely uncessary and done simply to placate an overprotective Weyrleader. Vigorous indeed! But the pale bronze makes good on his promise and does not overtake Dremkoth's mind so heavily this time. Time to let go and see if they can do it sort-of alone. « Yes. That is where we must go. Three beats. » Th'ero signals again and when the countdown reach the end, Velokraeth takes them Between and back to Fort. /Both/ of them!

This time Between is not such a huge-seeming leap, but the void is as black, as cold as - and as dangerous as it was before. D'ani keeps this firmly in mind even if Dremkoth takes it in stride. When they emerge over the soaked bowl, the young bronze is as triumphant as he was before, but of course he's been warned not to attempt a barrel roll - and to keep flying. No further stomach-dropping plunges, thankyouverymuch. But the admonition doesn't keep Dremkoth from trumpeting his success to the watch dragon and any other dragon within hearing distance of the echoes. Landing is accomplished as carefully and as smoothly as they've been taught, looking out for snoozing dragons, small children and Zois before choosing a spot and touching down.

Velokraeth emerges as well from Between, but without fanfare and annoucement. He does however allow Dremkoth to go about sharing his triumph, even if Th'ero is grimacing and flinching a bit at all the attention that is likely to draw. Not to him, but it's still enough to have the Weyrleader twitching slightly. But the pale bronze mellows out his rider, /his/ pride in the weyrling pair eventually crossing over the bond between them. Be happy for once! They're not dead! Relieved that they are home and there are no plummeting falls or barrel rolls, Velokraeth lands not long after Dremkoth, choosing another spot among the training fields in which to settle. His wings sweep and then fold neatly to his sides and he rumbles deeply in his approval. « Well done. Both of you. » The Weyrleader meanwhile, is stripping off his helmet and goggles and unbuckling himself from the straps. So it's up to the bronze to relay the rest for now. No sense shouting things at each other! « You are free now to go about your day. I'd suggest a bit of a hot meal. » He'd also suggest something else, but they have not had /that/ lecture yet, so the bronze has to bite his mental tongue at Th'ero's request. Ahem. « Do remember though, you are not to go Between alone quite yet. You have passed the first test, but you are not ready yet to go solo. Understood? » By then, Th'ero has dismounted — right back into the mud. With a barely contained sigh, he does his best to scrape the worst of it off in a nearby patch of grass. He will glance up to where D'ani and Dremkoth may be, checking in perhaps and curious to see how the bronze weyrling is holding up. Dremkoth's attitude is easy enough to guess, but what of his rider?

Dremkoth has yet to learn humility and discretion, the young whippersnapper! He's practically purring at the praise from Velokreath. Food! Excellent idea! Betweening made the bronze HUNGRY. « I promise we won't go alone-» The bronze amends that hastily, probably corrected firmly by D'ani, « -without supervision. » Brisk currents stir leaves against skies once again night-dark save for blood-red clouds scudding across the horizon of his appetite. That look of Th'ero's will catch Dremkoth's muzzle on curved 'round neck nudging at his lifemate to GET OFF ALREADY. He's impatient. He's STARVING. D'ani? He's got a wobbly grin on his face despite the fact that his bloodless fingers are stuck - cramped from gripping those lines so tightly during the lesson. And so what Th’ero will see is a nod of thanks from the weyrling and a pretense at just hanging out with Dremkoth as the bronze, trots off to have a meal – with D’ani still atop his dragon.

'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.