'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.

Fort Weyr - 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.

All day the air has been still, shimmering in the summer heat. Even so, it has been a welcome change from the fall and winter of seemingly endless rain. The stifling heat is no excuse for not having weyrling classes and chores, but those are now over for the day. The sky, having been a brilliant, uninterrupted blue all day is now purpling in the east as the sun nears the western horizon, leaving two hours or so of lingering twilight as the northern latitudes tend to do in summer. The air is now balmy with a light whisper of a breeze, perfect weather to let Dremkoth have a relaxing stretch of his wings before getting him settled for the night. The young bronze is harnessed and ready to go, but there is only one problem. There is no Ezra. And so it is that D'ani scrawls a hasty invitation, inserts the rolled note into the capsule Ragtag wears and the brown firelizard is sent aloft in search of the lad with D'ani firmly keeping the picture of his friend in his head as a guide. He busies himself by doing a second thorough check of the harness while waiting.

Ezra's lessons are over for the day, and the boy had been shoving food into his mouth (and pockets) when he received D'ani's note. Curious, the boy hastily left Zoi in the stables to the canine's delight, and hastened to the training grounds. A bronze is hard to miss, so Ezra doesn't have to poke around to find his friend. "Hey," he calls as he jogs up, steps slowing to a walk as he peers up at Dremkoth with a shy little smile, and then looks at D'ani. "What's up?"

D'ani is just tugging that last strap, jiggling the clips to test the grip as Ezra jogs up. "Hey yourself," he says stepping around the bronze to head for his friend. Dremkoth gets to him first, simply by extending his sinuous neck and overreaching his lifemate, the dragon whuffles a blast of warm air that washes over his rider's friend as he rumbling a greeting that sounds questioning. His great head tilts to scan back the way he came before lowering his muzzle to attempt a gentle hello nudge. "He's looking for Zoi," D'ani says with a lopsided smile in his own laid-back greeting. And then he adds casually, "Come for a ride with us?"

Ezra lifts an arm to cover his face at the dragon wuffle, but there's a laugh that goes with it. "She's in the stables," he says, his voice cracking before he clears it, reaching up to hesitantly rub Dremkoth's muzzle, tense just in case the bronze does not wish to be touched. Then his eyes widen a bit, turning his head to stare at D'ani. "A…ride?" Tilting his head, he peers allll the way up Dremkoth's side, weight shifting a little bit. It's hard to tell if he's excited or scared.

Dremkoth's eyes are a contented slow-whirling green and his rumble becomes an encouraging almost-purr as his muzzle is rubbed. D'ani nods simply. "Yeah, a ride," he says following that glance up up up his lifemate's side as if just realizing how big he really is. Even living with the bronze day after day, despite the rapid-growth he's done since hatching, the grown-up size of him sneaks up on D'ani and for a moment he's got nothing to say. Then he clears his throat and nods again, this time a glimmer of 'dare ya' lights his brown eyes while the bronze, responding to an unspoken request, crouches until he's on his belly. It… doesn't really help him look smaller does it? There's a set of leather mounting straps fashioned much like a rope ladder with wide foot rungs hanging down the left side of the dragon and it is these that he gestures to in an invitation for the boy to go up first, though of course, he is free to decline if he wants to. D'ani won't mind.

Ezra blinks a few times, his hand moving methodically over the bronze's muzzle. "I…yeah," he says, a grin suddenly splitting his face with glee. Patting Dremkoth's muzzle, he hops over and climbs up the straps, slow but nimble, and settles in. He hasn't flown /much/, but he's flown some, especially since the hatching when he began taking D'ani's notes across Pern.

D'ani holds the ladder in place so it won't sway too much then he follows Ezra up once the boy is near the top. Careful is he to keep an eye on him so if there's a slip he can hopefully catch him, he settles in behind Ezra and if he's clipped himself in already, checks the boys flight straps before clipping himself in. "There's an extra helmet, goggles and jacket in that pouch," he tells the boy and then busies himself rolling and clipping that mounting ladder to the harness. Beneath them there's the odd sensation of the world moving as Dremkoth shifts slowly to his feet while they make final preparations and suddenly the ground seems so far below. "I added a grab bar in front of the saddle. Use it if you want to, Ezra." He takes a breath, then asks, "Ready?"

Ezra eagerly pulls out the thicker jacket, pulling it over the one he already wears - the gift from Inri - and the goggles and the helmet. Reaching out, he grips the bar and gives it a test wiggle. "This is nice," he says, appreciating the added sensation of security. As someone who doesn't ride much, he likes it. Reaching down a bit further, he rubs his hand against Dremkoth's hide and grins, hidden though it is behind the helmet. "Ready!" he says, voice firm but cracking just the same, in his pubescent excitement.

D'ani has ridden runners and maybe the occasional oxen, but with dragonriding a relatively new experience for him, the metal bar, with its leather cover laced tight to keep it from rusting was one of his first adaptations. He grins back at Ezra, lowers his goggles from his helmet and thumbs up. "Hang on!" Dremkoth rumbles his own warning, his sides vibrating underneath them, his wings lift high and he crouches. The kick off is like nothing a green or blue will do and there's no zipping aloft. No, this is a neck-snapping launch and then a slow climb, the wingsails creaking and snapping as the ascent almost seems leisurely as the heavy bronze reaches for the sky. They get an excellent view of the crater as Dremkoth rises on the shallow curve necessary to take them up over the bowl walls without hitting them.

Ezra lets out a loud whoop when they rise, free, just him and his best friend and his best friend's dragon. Can life get better than this? At first he's gripping the bar tightly, but as they rise he lets go with one hand, and then both, and a moment later he's spread his arms out and leans forward, lost in the sensations of flight and freedom.

Behind him, D'ani chuckles, but truth be told, he's finding the ability to fly on Dremkoth rather growing on him. They rise over the lip of the crater and then they drop, skimming the slope of the peak in a rapid-glide descent towards the valley and coastal plateau beyond, nothing but the air rushing past their ears to be heard. Fragile wing membranes, just inches above the tips of towering pine trees rattle in the vortex of air displaced by the bronze's foresails. The valley is reached much quicker than it seems possible and the last of the forest peters out to cultivated land. Now those wings pump three, four five times, speed gained to glide swiftly over a field with rows of half-grown corn fluttering in their wake as they blast over them heading down the length of the rows.

Ezra enjoys it all - loves it, savors it. As they fly the boy leans this way and that, soaking it all in and eager for more. He even points out a few things as they fly. Things D'ani probably sees for himself, but Ezra points out anyway. "This is…" he calls over the wind, but either the noise of the air steals his words away or he's unable to find one suitable for the sensation.

The speed, increases as they streak across the field, the regularly-spaced trees of an orchard rush towards them. Dremkoth continues his course straight for them, folding his wings just enough so that they slide down the long wide aisle, the trees flashing bars of shadow-light-shadow-light as they whip past. D'ani would laugh, but he's busy watching those wingtips and trying not to wince. Then they're past the trees and the bronze flares his wings, the sails snapping smartly, and uses his momentum to wheel back up to the sky, climbing until Fort Hold south of them is indistinct in the gathering dusk, the crater of the Weyr barely a bump silhouetted on the western horizon. Slower now, they wheel lazily, wind calmed enough for speech, D'ani asks, "Which way is Stonehaven?"

Ezra stiffens immediately in front of D'ani, his shift in posture both felt and seen, no doubt. Twisting in the harness, he peers over his shoulder at his friend, and just stares at him. Then he turns, and lifting his left arm, he points. Silently, but he points just the same. It's that way. And when his arm drops, it falls to the bar and he grips it. Hard.

D'ani would have to be blind not to notice the change in Ezra, not that it surprises him terribly. And Dremkoth can physically feel the tension in the legs that straddle him. The bronze rumbles, seeking to comfort the boy, unsure what's the cause of it. There's a back and forth silent discussion between rider and dragon, so silence for a span of a few minutes. Then D'ani asks quietly, "Would you like to show it to me? We can do a sweep maybe. Don't have to land unless you say." There is still light, that glow thrown up from the setting sun that bathes half the sky in pale silvery peach, the contours of the land visible in the shadows that lurk in the draws, the rises brushed with the fading light.

Ezra is also silent, mulling over the situation. Does he want to go? After a long period of thought, he nods. "Sure," he says quietly, not committing to anything more than that. "Over that range. If you go right, you can go into the valley and then up, then it's over the pass and we're the next valley past that…" It's only fair, right? D'ani showed him his home, after all.

D'ani watches Ezra's posture carefully, listening intently to his vocal timbre since he can't get a good look at his face without being really obvious about it by leaning waaaay out to one side, which just wouldn't do. Dremkoth tilts a wing, altitude falling as he heads towards the range indicated. The young bronze flies steadily and smoothly now, perhaps taking a more business-like approach to these 'sweeps' his rider has pointed him to. As they skim within inches of the peaks of the range mentioned, the valley drops away below them and Dremkoth banks to the right, flying up the length of it. The pass looms ahead, the sheer rock lit by the sunset in the west, the fir trees stark black amongst crags and crevices, gullies lost to the creeping darkness. They tilt, slipping neatly through without slowing and enter the second valley. They're in unfamiliar territory so they do not skim the ground here, their track soundless as they glide above the teetops and D'ani is alert, eyes sweeping to and fro.

Ezra is silent and still as they fly, and slowly his home begins to emerge from the shadows of the fading day. Backed up against the mountain at the head of the valley, the little cothold is mostly tunnels within the rock, only a few outer buildings visible behind a high stone wall. "There," is Ezra's first word, his voice thick, and the boy leans back slightly, against D'ani. Lifting a hand from the bar, he points to the place that was his home. The place that holds memories, both wonderful and traumatic.

D'ani places a hand on Ezra's shoulder and gives it an encouraging squeeze. He can only empathize with his friend, understanding completely the feeling of desolation at seeing a beloved home so deserted and empty, knowing the loss even though two very different things swept through their respective cotholds, the end result was the same. Dremkoth, sharing D'ani's mind and knowing where his emotions are headed, even though his thoughts are skating around the perimeters of the tragedies, has the beginning of a sympathetic croon for the both of them expanding his lungs. A sharp, "Hsssst!" from D'ani hushes him and they sweep silently on up towards the palisade that houses the tunnels. "It is an impressive stronghold," he murmurs through a tight throat, directing the dragon to circle.

Ezra nods in agreement as he looks down at his home. "It is," he says softly. "Warm in the winter. Very warm. Lots of tunnels, lots of places to hide…" He shifts a little and points. "He can land there," he says, just loud enough to be heard. "That's where one of the fields was. Won't be any rocks to step on."

"You're sure?" D'ani asks, his tone a touch uneasy. This is a deserted hold, after all, so who knows whether drifters have found the place? He keeps his thoughts to himself, however and directs Dremkoth to the field, the backwinging necessary to land sounding to his own ears as the bronze touches down. He keeps his wings aloft, crouching there as his rider, making no move to dismount, scans the cliff face. "Ezra, have you been here since the- they brought you to Fort Weyr?"

Ezra nods, "I'm sure. No one is here. They check it often…" Looking to see if Laris returns, perhaps? Or to protect the holding out of a sense of guilt and duty? Knowing Th'ero, it's probably the latter. When Dremkoth lands, Ezra begins to unbuckle and pull off helmet and goggles, tucking them away. "No," is his only answer, soft spoken as he reaches down to try and let the little ladder down so he can dismount.

D'ani wouldn't know about Th'ero's motivation, but the fact that it is checked often doesn't surprise him. Still, he's uneasy enough to hesitate, doubly so when Ezra says this is his first time back. "Here, there's a clip," he says guiding the boy's hand to the fore so he can open it while he reomves his goggles and helmet, shrugging out of his flight jacket. When the ladder unrolls down Dremkoth's side, the bronze flips his wings closed and crouches for them and D'ani follows Ezra down after throwing a leather bag over his shoulder. Survival gear. After the snowed in cabin, he knows it's better safe than sorry. "I'll follow you," he says sagely since they're on Ezra's home turf. He'd just get them lost.

Ezra climbs down but hesitates over the last step. Then, slowly, he puts first one foot and then the other down onto Stonehaven's land, a shiver running through his body as he does so. Stepping back from Dremkoth, the boy crouches to cup dirt in his hands, letting it run through his fingers. He stares at it for a long moment, and then pushes to his feet. Hesitating, he bites his lip and then reaches out a gloved hand for D'ani, much like a child - the boy that he is. "C'mon," he says quietly, and if D'ani is willing, Ezra leads him towards the stone wall and the closed iron gate.

D'ani unclips, but waits from atop Dremkoth's shoulders,watching Ezra's descent, understanding the hesitation. He's grabbed the long flight line with gloved hands and just slides down; a practiced move that lands him with a soft thunk beside Ezra as he's cupping the dirt. He is silent, there and supportive. Returning to Maiona the first time was an odd experience for him too, so he is patient, willing to remain there until Ezra is ready to move. He places his hand in Ezra's and follows, still watchful, towards that gated wall.

Ezra keeps hold of D'ani's hand and pushes open the gate, wincing when it creaks and protests. "Father never let this gate make a sound," he murmurs. Stepping into the courtyard the stone building rises before them, but Ezra instead turns to the left, to a corner of the courtyard. His hand convulses slightly, but when he speaks it's calm and even. "That's where they piled the bodies of everyone," he says. "My father included. And covered them with snow." Then he walks toward the hold door, to peer at the note from Th'ero saying this cothold is closed and none are to enter. Ezra ignores that though, trying to knob. When it proves locked, he digs into a pocket and produces a key. Surprise?

D'ani gives Ezra's hand a companionable squeeze, his throat too tight to remark about the bodies. He'd like to say that it's too bad the boy had to see that, but he knows enough about closure that he asks, "Were you able to see to his burial?" Or well, surely the Weyr did but allowed the boy to know it was properly and respectfully done. He… never found his parents but his mind skitters away from that. He too stares at that sign, recognizing the Weyrleader's handwriting and signature. That little four letter word includes D'ani so when Ezra produces a key it is indeed a surprise. "I'm guessing they… don't know you have that," he says dryly.

Ezra bites his lower lip for a moment, and then shakes his head. "I did not," he says quietly. "They burned them. Burned them all, as I told them to. As is tradition. So they were tended to properly." Unlocking the door, he tucks the key away and gives D'ani a look that's a mix of emotions. Worried, guilty, but also proud and defiant. "No." Pushing the door open, he steps inside the cothold, this time without hesitation. "This is where I hid," he says, motioning to the front room and then pointing to the back tunnel that leads from this main space. "They've cleaned it…" Indeed, there is no furniture left. "I used furniture for wood. It was mid-winter, and I was here for…I don't know how long. Alone. Days, maybe? I kept a fire burning," and he points to the hearth, "and ate whatever I could find that they left." He seems to have no trouble talking about this. Perhaps it's because so much time has passed, or he's had time to mourn, or he trusts D'ani enough. Maybe all of those things.

D'ani accepts this. Traditions vary planetwide so he only nods, breathing out a sigh that is only relief. There's no judgment in the look he returns to Ezra after the question about the key. Only a fatalistic shrugging of his shoulders. Que sera sera? He allows Ezra to draw him into the cothold, looking around the space, seeing in his mind's eye not the empty room, but broken wooden, partially burned sticks of furniture…ransacked cupboards… a snow-filled courtyard with people Ezra knew and loved piled out there…and a half-starved child alone. He turns away, makes a harsh sound in his throat, turns back only then aware that his hand is gripping Ezra's too tightly and loosens it. "You have amazing courage, Ezra," he says after swallowing hard. "They'll catch him eventually," he assures his friend grimly. "When they do, I-" His jaw works and he bites down the rest of the thought.

Ezra is squeezing D'ani's hand back just as tightly, shaking his head a little bit. "What else could I have done?" he whispers softly. "I…survived. There wasn't really a choice." Turning his head, he looks up at the almost graduated bronzeling, gaze steady. "What?" he presses. "I used to think I wanted to be the one to do it. To kill him. Now…I just want him gone. Out of my thoughts, my life. I… He has already taken everything in my past. I…don't want him in my future too." He doesn't know if that makes sense, brows furrowing a little bit.

"People don't always survive," D'ani assures Ezra. "They give up on the inside and die. You didn't. That took courage. Just as it take courage to move from being a survivor to living again like you are doing." He is convinced, sincere. And then his mouth sets and he finishes, "I want to punch his face - hard and repeatedly for you, that's all." Just because he's seen firsthand how this has affected the boy. As he listens to what Ezra has to say, most of the anger drains from him, nodding both understanding and a dawning relief. It makes perfect sense, moreover it's far healthier than wanting revenge. He turns then and takes the step to peer out into the courtyard for a few very long quiet minutes at the spot the boy had indicated previously, then turns his head and looks his friend in the eye. "I'd take him *between* for you, if they make that judgment call at his trial," he says quietly.

Ezra turns to look up at his friend, nodding solemly. He knows enough not to argue with people about what they want, so he just nods. "Thank you," he says quietly. That probably won't be his decision to make, but he appreciates the sentiment just the same. "Want to see my room?" he asks next, quietly spoken.

D'ani will volunteer himself though. "You're welcome. That way, I know you'll believe me when I tell you he is gone for good," he says firmly. He takes a deep breath then, lets the tension that has gripped him to dissipate and then flicks another glance out towards the entrance, this time to the darkening sky. "Yes. I'd like to see that," he says simply, reaching into his shoulder bag and pulling out a glow. This is offered to Ezra with a smiled, "Lead on!"

Ezra hadn't thought of it that way, and his eyes turn distant, distracted as he ponders what it would feel like to know - to KNOW - that Laris is gone. His body gives a faint tremble at the thought and then he shakes it off. Taking the glow in his hand, he looks at it curiously and then passes it back. "I know my way," he says softly. Finally letting go of D'ani's hand, the boy leads him towards the tunnel at the back of the room. "This is the store room," he says, pointing to the first door on the left. It's empty, the door askew on its hinges, nothing but broken crates left behind. Seems whoever cleaned the front room didn't clean everything. "This was my parents' room," he says, stopping and staring at a closed door. And he passes it by, leaving whatever is behind that door alone. "My brother's room, my sister's…" Those are also passed by without stopping to look, though no doubt they contain personal belongings of each of the people that lived there. Perhaps he is not ready to face those items yet. Or maybe he wants to let the dead rest. "And mine." The door is half open, and he pushes it all the way, revealing a neat and tidy little room. The opposite, really, of his room at the weyr, which is sprawling and filthy. This one is neat and other than a broken chair and no blankets on the bed, it is neat and everything in its place. From the little rock collection on a shelf to the desk, parchment left out and a letter half finished. Shoes under the bed, dirty clothes in a hamper, all evidence at how quickly his life - this life - ended.

Ezra might know the way, and D'ani might trust him completely not to get them lost in the black corridors of the hold, but he wants to see what he's being shown. So he takes the glow back with a half-smile tugging at his mouth and follows his friend. He lifts the glow high and peers towards the store room with somberness darkening his expression for the ransacked room. He follows Ezra without comment, although his eyes flick to those closed doors and then to the back of Ezra's head with something akin to alarm that fades as he passes them by. He doesn't attempt to open and peer into them either. The room they enter has D'ani looking very thoughtful and at first he merely holds the glow high, remaining by the door while his gaze takes in everything. "Different now, and yet the same," he says, but he might be speaking of his own take on it - and the boy who lived here.

Ezra steps inside and stops in the center of the room, turning around in a small circle. "Yes," he agrees quietly. "It's like…this is a stranger's room. These," he points to the rocks, "these were so important to me…" But now, his tone implies, he could care less about the gleaming stones.

D'ani has been in this place inside his head. And so he enters quietly, almost reverently into that little glimpse of Ezra's past. "May I?" he says of the stones, waiting for permission before examining any of them. While focusing on the rocks, he says casually, "I felt the most disorienting sensation when the cothold was gone. Like the past was erased with the waters that swept it away. It took me months to find out how I could keep their fading faces in my mind and when I did, it was the hold itself that reminded me. Maiona means-" his voice thickens a little and he clears his throat, "-remember me." The silence following the statement is broken by the click of pebble against wood being returned to the shelf. "It's all here," he says lifting a hand to tap gently at Ezra's sternum, meaning his heart and not his head. "What you are is not exactly what you were, but the foundations that were laid by your family remain." Whether Ezra feels this is true, D'ani is earnest, believing it because this is what he's found to be so.

Ezra nods, giving D'ani the permission to touch the stones. Still turning, looking at things that were so much a part of his life, he listens and nods, stilling when D'ani touches his sternum. "I felt the same," he admits softly. "Even though the hold itself is still here. It is still…gone. Empty." Glancing up at his friend, he nods slightly. "Remember me," he echoes, swallowing as well. "It will never, ever be the same," he admits, shifting a bit closer to D'ani. "And I don't know if I…if I can make it close to what it was. The people…you can not get that again…"

"You can't, " D'ani agrees and perhaps that reality seems harsh, but he won't sugar-coat it. "But they live in you because they built you. You'll always have them, if even in a different way than you did before." He looks thoughtful and then he reaches for a stone, picking the one in the center of the group - maybe it seems prominent? - and gives it a long, thoughtful look before reaching for Ezra's hand and placing it in the boy's palm. "You are Stonehaven," he says and waits to see if the boy understands his meaning. "They built you, now you build it. It won't be the same, it will be your Stonehaven, Ezra, built on a sound foundation into a place of new memories that honor the old." This is what one gets hanging around cattle. Perhaps he should have been a harper?

Ezra curls his fingers around the stone as it's pressed into his palm, and he exhales softly. Shakily. "But how?" he whispers, his voice breaking - and not just from emotion, either. "How…I need people. A…a wife, a family…who…how can I…" He's an awkward - /super/ awkward - teenage boy, who can't even barely talk to women. And now he needs to find one and marry one and have a relationship with her like his parents had? Impossible. Insurmountable. He can't fathom where to even begin. "I don't want to fail them," he whispers, staring down at his clenched hand.

"You won't," D'ani seems very sure of this. Ezra won't let them down! "Ezra, relax!" He's trying very hard not to laugh now and for the most part manages, his voice is warm as he smiles and claps a hearty hand on his friend's shoulder. "You don't have to worry about a wife for a good while yet. And you only need enough people to start rebuilding. I'll help you recruit people - when it's time." A touch uneasily he adds, "As long as Th'ero doesn't skin us alive and banish us from Stonehaven forever for being here. We… should probably get back."

This is Very Serious and the poor boy looks mortified, almost crushed beneath the weight of responsibility he's put upon himself. When D'ani's hand rests on his shoulder, he tips forward against his friend's body. Someone needs a hug. But next he's bristling a bit. Stiffening. "This is my hold, not his. I have every right to be here." And he'll tell Th'ero so, too, if the Weyrleader catches them.

D'ani's arm goes around Ezra's shoulders easily, giving the boy a bracing squeeze and also a little shake before he drops it. "Of course it's yours! But your first lesson in holding will be diplomacy and so while you might say that to him, ticking him off might not be such a great idea. You'll want a good working relationship with him." Though if the Weyrleader catches them, there probably won't be anything Ezra can say to defend D'ani for disobeying that directive to keep out.

Ezra presses against that hug, seeking and needing it, but he gathers himself enough to step away when D'ani's arm drops. He grimaces a bit, and shrugs. "I guess…" he mutters, glancing around. Taking a deep breath, he nods. "I think we should go, yeah…" he finally agrees, walking out of his room and heading towards the exit, through the dark tunnels.

D'ani chuckles at the grimace and ruffles Ezra's hair. "You'll get it sorted out, I know you will. But you have" to grow up enough that the hold conclave and Fort Weyr considers you a full adult." Dark eyes grow concerned once again at the weight that settles upon Ezra and he, more than ready to get the boy out of the abandoned hold, follows him from his once-bedroom, closing the door softly behind him, tossing a troubled look towards those other closed doors as they pass them again on the way out. The glow he holds aloft cast oddly-moving shadows in the eerie, empty halls and he doesn't lag behind his guide. Out in the gathering dusk of the dirt field, Dremkoth remains crouched and waiting for them, alert and uneasy in this desolate place. Perhaps he's picking up on D'ani's emotions, but partly he's following his rider's request to keep watch.

Ezra huffs softly, shaking his head. "When will that be? What's the age?" He doesn't know a thing, really. Outside, he waits for D'ani to exit before he closes the door and locks it with the key (surprise?) from his inner jacket pocket, before it's tucked away safely again. He's lapsed into silence once more, reaching up to touch a smooth spot of stone by the door frame. "Every time we'd leave or come home, we'd touch this spot," he says. "It was tradition."

"When you are fifteen turns," D'ani says firmly. "That's what I was told in regards to taking hold on Maiona. Did I… ever tell you why I didn't-" he's saying as they reach the gate, once again watching that key as the boy produces it, locks the gate and pockets it. He gives Ezra a quizzical look, lifts his hand and his fingers hover over the spot. He should touch it too?

Ezra nods, moving his hand so D'ani can touch it. When he has, the boy will turn towards the outer gate and answer the question. "You didn't…I thought it was because you impressed?" But even as he says that he's frowning. He's not great at math but even he knows D'ani impressed /after/ fifteen.

D'ani touches the spot lightly, reverently, eyes cast back over his shoulder towards that courtyard as he does so. "Rest well," he breathes, an almost inaudible benediction on the people who lived in the place. Turning back, he takes a deep breath, strides on out towards the field and Dremkoth, motioning Ezra to fall into step beside him. "At first I needed time. Time to look for them, then time to mourn. I almost gave up on my craft and the idea of restoring the holding because as time went on, their faces were fading and I couldn't bring them back even though I'd try very hard. Then, the more I thought about what Maiona needed, the name reminded me of what I had to do. I had to go on and prepare to provide Maiona what she needed. And what she needed was for me to finish my craft. I was eighteen turns old when the floods came." And Ezra should already know that he spent the next four at the hall, soaking in his studies and between courses, searching for his sisters.

Ezra lengthens his stride to try and keep up with his friend, making sure to close the gate behind him, frowning once more at the squeaky hinges. He'll have to get back out here, somehow, and fix that. A small thing, but an important one too. And he nods. "Time…is important. I needed time too. So you made the right decision. Your Hold needed something…someone with a rank…" He has no rank.

D'ani shakes his head, "Not quite what I meant. The hold needed someone equipped to do the work; I wanted to be ready." And of course he had a lot of practical training from his da. He gives Ezra another one of his quizzical looks, "As the last surviving son, you already have rank." Whether he ought to ask this or not, seems to be what he's wrestling with and in so doing, he's forgotten to keep a sharp eye out as they leave the gate and begin the trek out to that field. "Have you ever thought to request fostering under a lord holder?"

Tricky thing with dragons is that unless you really think about it, there's not many spots you can put one where they cannot be seen. So it should come as no surprise when a high altitude patrol rider spotted Dremkoth lounging in the dirt field — too close to an area that has been restricted for some time now. Lucky or not, the wingrider does not simply call a broad alarm, but the pair do vanish Between to report the odd sighting. Unluckily, however, is that they never bothered to bespeak the bronze. Which means when the report reaches certain ears… well. It can never bode well. Fate favors the two of them though, as it's only Velokraeth who winks from Between high over the cothold. One would think so, anyhow. But the pale bronze folds his wings and abruptly dives — uncharacteristic for him as his arrivals are usually slow going and almost idle and lazy. Fueled perhaps by his rider's temper, Dremkoth is about to have an unannounced visitor and guest as the older (and much uglier) bronze swoops by overhead and then veers sharply, backwinging to land with just enough room to spare. « Adding trespassing to your daily list of "things to do", are we? » Velokraeth bespeaks, his tone drawling in sarcasm and mirth as he folds his wings neatly to his sides. Th'ero is not long in dismounting either, casting a sharp glance to Dremkoth before he's striding off, his brisk strides betraying enough of his anger.

Ezra is about to answer D'ani, brows furrowed in inward thought, when Velokraeth arrives. The boy swears under his breath and then blushes, eyes darting around as if someone is going to come give him a whipping for his bad language. Whoops? "Uh," he says, shoulders hunching and bending forward a bit into his usual 'I'm not here' slouch. But a moment later he's straightening, shoulders straight and head up. "Weyrleader, sir," he says. His voice would have been Lordly, his tone /perfect/ for the occasion, if it hadn't cracked.

Talk about surprises! Velokraeth has swooped in from the one place the uneasy bronze hasn't been watching - the sky. No, he's watching for land-bound danger ever since gliding through the pass into this desolate valley. So the bronze arrowing in from above and behind him takes Dremkoth by complete surprise, sneaky-sneaaaaaaaky! The whoosh of air elicits a squawk and the crouching bronze hits the dirt, flattening himself instinctively. Of course as soon as Velokraeth passes over him, it's obvious who it is and he sits back up hastily. Cough! Mind not the dust on his belly! « I was just… with him. » is Dremkoth's almost sheepish reply to Velokraeth while pointing a wingtip at D'ani. Be still his beating hearts! D'ani, absorbed with Ezra's plight, is equally guilty of not watching out and has startled at the sudden arrival as well. Really though, he was more worried about renegades not dragons. Oh, he can clearly see that from the Weyrleader's posture that the man is displeased, so though his step had faltered briefly, he continues out towards the man, just saluting. What can he say? His instinct is to take the blame and to this end he shifts to step in front of Ezra, opening his mouth to say- He waits though, following a hunch and steps aside to allow Ezra to stand beside him.

Velokraeth can be sneaky! In fact, the bronze enjoys it even if his bulk makes it nigh impossible usually. So perhaps he's a little smug that he got the drop on Dremkoth, even though Th'ero has stormed off to tear into the other bronze's rider. Oh well? « Mhm. I would hope you came here with your rider. » Velokraeth remarks with biting sarcasm this time. Really. « Yours just best have a good excuse why we must be here. » Cue the mental smirk and a good dose of champagne and honey gold wine. Meanwhile, Th'ero is narrowing down the distance between him and the two caught unexpectedly by his arrival. The Weyrleader is in his heavier riding gear, his dagger and sword clipped to either of sides. His one hand is resting on the hilt of that sword, the other is free though intermittently clenching and unclenching. Couple that with his heavy frown and the bright anger in his eyes, he's rather intimidating. D'ani's salute is met with a narrowed look, returned with the barest of nods. As it's Ezra who addresses him though first, it's to the boy that Th'ero looks to next and some of his temper seems to ebb. So the bronze weyrling may be saved, barely, by the fact that his companion is well… "Ezra. D'ani," Blunt and clipped, he stands before them, temper barely in check but held all the same. "What are you two doing here?" he asks, his voice suddenly too calm and collected to be a good sign. The answer better be good?

Ezra continues to hold himself proudly, head high, and facing the Weyrleader head on. Taking a deep breath, he's about to offer some bold 'This is my hold, why shouldn't I be here?' response when the breeze picks up, whispering through the budding trees, and it triggers something within him. The familiar sound of branches scraping against stone, the far off cry of a circling bird, and the silence that surrounds those noises. His shoulders slump and he tilts his head down, digging a toe gently into the dirt and then smoothing it out again, as if he's unwilling to leave /any/ mark on this earth. "I wanted to come," he says, voice thick with emotion. "I…I needed to see it again…"

D'ani likewise stands straight, head up, looking the Weyrleader in the eye, which is not easy given the fact that he's the cause of the man's temper. He's half-expecting some sort of outburst from Ezra about it being his hold, ready to silently cheer the boy inside his own head, but with that shoulder slump, his arm goes around the boy's shoulders. "It was my idea, Sir. I took Ezra for a ride on Dremkoth. And on the way home I asked him which way it was and if he'd show it to me." He takes a deep breath deciding not to say he might've just overflown it instead saying simply, "It was time."

One would think that facing the Weyrleader head on like that would make things worse and not /better/. In this case, however, it seems to have Th'ero backing off by the slightest of margins, though he clearly outranks Ezra on so many levels. Perhaps the bronzerider can take some respect for the boy's boldness or strength. Had he stated his claim, as is his right, things may have been different. Instead, Th'ero's gaze only lingers on Ezra as the boy tilts his head down, shoulders slumping. As angry as he may be, he's not entirely cold hearted. "I see," he says, which is Th'ero-speak for 'I understand' when he becomes too awkward by the emotion in the youth's tone to say much else. Feelings? No thank you. D'ani likewise is given the same lingering look when the bronze weyrling doesn't balk. Perhaps he is impressed too that he is quick to own up, but it's hard to read Th'ero's expression now, still grim and stony cold in its reserved masks. "Perhaps. But that was not your decision to make or approve." he tells D'ani briskly, gaze then turning to Ezra. "You had only to ask. An official visit would be no issue to arrange. I could have had the patrols notified then." Now he shifts to glance at both of them and some of the anger returning to his eyes. "As it is, both of you nearly set off a chain that could have had half of Fort Weyr bearing down on your heads, had the Wingrider who spotted Dremkoth not kept his head and reported discreetly rather than scream his findings broadband."

Ezra lifts his head a little bit, appreciating D'ani's arm around his shoulders. "I…I apologize, sir," he says. Oooh, big word. "But it was…just…It just happened." The excuse of teenage boys everywhere. Though usually referring to something /else/, no? But then he balks a little bit. "I wanted to come with D'ani. Not…not make a big deal out of it. Just…just visit my hold. I haven't been here since. And I want…I want to Hold it. To…to be its leader and lord. And I needed to see it. To just…be here…and…so I know what to do…" He's rambling and he trails off, but he doesn't look down. Instead he looks at Th'ero, and though his expression is serious, it's also brimming with emotions that the boy doesn't yet have the skills to completely contain. He has his masks, but they are flimsy and hard to maintain.

D'ani breathes again at that 'perhaps' from Th'ero regarding Ezra. His response to Th'ero is, a firm, "Yes Sir, I know it wasn't. And yet I did." While he is agreeing, there is not a shred of contrition in his tone. He's prepared to accept both responsibility and consequences. Why didn't he ask? "It was spur of the moment Sir, but if I had to do it over again, I'd do it the same." And he meets the man's eyes openly, the awareness clearly shared that he knows they could have upset the entire system Th'ero has set up, sorry for that bit, but for Ezra's sake, not at all. "It had to be like breathing Sir, for him to come. To be able to come here after-" Well, it goes without saying what happened here. They all know what happened. He will admit, "I'm sorry we've upset you." Because he is!

Th'ero will listen to both their arguments with a fair share of equality and neutrality, despite his anger and frustration at their behavior. He's no fool either or without emotions and the Weyrleader can understand, to a degree, /why/ it was done. But he cannot let it be used as an excuse, even if he's now beginning to struggle between duty and honor. Because he can respect the honor behind D'ani's decisions and Ezra's need to be here. Duty however… It's enough to make one's head hurt, which is likely happening to the bronzerider. "It would not be a big deal, Ezra. A quiet word and it would be quietly done." he tells the boy in a tone that is still firm but no longer edged. There is surprise in his features then, brows lifting when he outwardly claims his desire to Hold. Well, this just makes things a whole bigger kettle of awkward. "If that is the case, then you really should have come forwards." But he should know better — it's easier said than done. Th'ero shakes his head then, exhaling heavily and distracted then in responding to D'ani, "Somehow I don't doubt that," The Weyrleader drawls in response to the bronze weyrlings claim that he would do it again. He snorts though at the apology for upsetting him, waving his hand in a sharp and dismissive gesture. "Next time you have a spur of a moment desire to visit a restricted area, /do/ have Dremkoth speak Velokraeth at the very least." Lapsing silent then, he holds both of them under his stare for several long seconds before he seems to come to some decision. "I won't be punishing either of you for this… lack of judgement. I am not pleased, but it's been done. And Ezra," he turns to the boy then. "If you do hope to hold someday, your first lesson should be to learn to follow protocol and basic political standards and practices." he states bluntly. Ouch? To D'ani, he adds, "And /you/," And he lifts a hand up to point at the bronze weyrling, "Should be helping him, if you are so insistent in bringing him here. Speaking of which," Another pause, as he considers his thoughts and decisions once more before murmuring. "Consider the restriction modified as of now. Dremkoth has clearance to be here, /so long/," he stresses, "As you both inform us of your visits. When you arrive, when you leave. We will then keep the patrols aware." So… no punishment?

Ezra glances up at D'ani, and the boy's look is nothing short of awed. Then focus is riveted on Th'ero, and he's shifting briefly before stilling once more. Being here, perhaps, strengthens his resolve and makes him less awkward. Less likely to shrink away and fidget. This is /his/ place. His home. "Yes, sir," he agrees with a small nod. "I am sorry." His relief at avoiding punishment is almost palpable in the exhale of breath. Woosh. "Yes, sir, thank you. I…uh." Protocol? And he blinks at the final bit, giving them permission, and he straightens once more. "Uh…" He fumbles a little bit, but pushes on, "St-Stonehaven's thanks and duties, Weyrleader, to F-Fort and her queens." He stumbles through it, but gets it done. And then looks at D'ani, the man he most wants to emulate and please, an automatic seeking of approval. Was that good?

D'ani is stoic under Th'ero's declarations. "Yes, Sir," he says of contacting Velokraeth. He agrees with the principles of following protocol and in fact, did mention the diplomacy required by a future holder in not ticking off the Weyrleader (Oops?), but he doesn't remark on that. Instead he says firmly, "Point taken, Sir." And then he salutes smartly, "I will-" quick-glancing sidelong at Ezra and amending that to, "We will." His arm gives his friend a bracing squeeze, then drop as the lad stands tall and begins relaying his formal duties, holding his breath and willing the boy through them, can't keep the grin off of his face as Ezra gets through them without a haunted look etching his features. The clout on his shoulder is an enthusiastic endorsement of not only his recital but the invisible barrier the boy crosses to speak them - there is a voice for Stonehaven once again. Oh right! Formal. Protocol. Ahem! He straightens at attention once more. "Thank you, Sir."

Th'ero isn't as quick to dismiss Ezra's apology either as he had with D'ani, though the Weyrleader is beginning to change a heated temper for one of awkward annoyance. He hates situations like these. Fumbled or not, he takes the boy's recital in stride and does not correct him — if there is even anything to correct. Instead, he only gives what is justly due: a respectful nod and a firmly spoken, "Well met, Ezra Stonehaven." Might as well do a bit of practice now? Clearly it does not quite settle well with Th'ero though, who is never at ease though he does his best to mask it. It does not seem to help either that there is obviously a more serious sort of bond developing between D'ani and Ezra. Th'ero has begun to assume, anyways and is not wholly displeased. Friendships can be an invaluable asset and of all individuals for Ezra to find, the Weyrleader has no issues with the bronze weyrling being one of them. "Don't disappoint me," Th'ero warns, levelling them both with a serious look in response to their thanks. "I won't be so lienient if certain rules or protocols are broken or ignored again."

At least Ezra doesn't have to ask him in for drinks and some dinner? That'd be awkward, the three of them standing in the empty living space. The boy rocks a bit at D'ani's shoulder clout, beaming at his friend and then sobering to nod to Th'ero. Though his chest does swell a bit at the use of his full name. Pride. Pride is returning to the boy. "I - We won't, sir," he says, also correcting himself.

Though D’ani maintains a steady eye contact with Th’ero, he notices Ezra’s change in posture from the corner of his eye and is very pleased. As for disappointing the Weyrleader again? He’ll try not to, but he makes no promises. Integrity keeps him from doing that, because who knows what situation might arise where preset rules or protocols might not be in his troubled firend’s best interest? He’ll keep the promise to notify the Weyrleader of any future visits to Stonehaven though.