'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 - Star Stones

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

After running away from his brother and his friend, Ezra (and Zoi) did not head back to his room, so it might take D'ani a little bit (and a few questions, because Zoi is hard to miss) to find Ezra on the Star Stones. Despite the clouds that threaten rain, the boy is crouched in the shadow of the main Stone, head down and arms over his bent knees as he balances on the balls of his feet. Zoi lays beside him, the massive canine stretched out on her side, gazing at her human and then around, keeping a calm alertness about her.

It has indeed taken awhile, but D'ani has several reasons to be diligent. Having checked Ezra's room, the bathing cavern, the infirmary, then the main caverns, where he took the time to snag some cold fried chicken, cookies, a steaming sweetened spiced milk and two mugs, he's gotten a few pointers of a big white dog passing through (finally he figured out to include Zoi in his 'have you seen a boy yay high with shaggy, sandy blonde hair run by?' question. The person who pointed him up this particular path is presently being muttered about as the climb goes higher and steeper. "He'd better be up here…" (and there he is!) "Ezra? Hey, where'd you-" Wait, he knows where. "-why'd you go running off?" He's talking as he approaches, reaching out a hand to Zoi as he lowers himself to sit beside his friend. "Whew! This is some climb. Tell me you didn't run all the way here?"

Ezra lifts his head sharply when another approaches, and when he sees D'ani his expression looks guilty. Pained. Uncertain, as he watches his friend with almost wariness. "Are you mad at me?" the boy blurts out, first thing, before (second thing) he notices the food as Zoi sits up, tail sweeping across the cool stone and offers D'ani's leg a little lick. Hi. Some of that food for me? Shaking his head, Ezra exhales and looks across the bowl. "I shouldn'tve said that, bout you looking for people. That was so mean of me, but I didn't mean it like that. I promise I didn't."

D'ani looks at Ezra like he's crazy, grinning immediately thereafter. "Why on Pern would I be?" He stops rubbing Zoi's ears and reaches the hand to ruffle the boy's hair, probably knowing he'll hate that (don't all boys?). Then he sways to nudge the boy's shoulder with his. "Why not? It's true, I am; I've had lots of practice." He ducks his head to better see Ezra's face, "Hey now, I believe you! That didn't really bother me at all, but if it helps, I forgive you." He flicks a look at Zoi, reaches into the lunch sack he's carried up here and withdraws a biscuit and offers that to her. "I brought us a snack, Ezra. There's fried chicken. Are you hungry?" And he offers it over to the boy to take some if he wants.

Ezra ducks his head at the ruffle, but he does subtly (so subtly) lean into it too. "Still," he says with a sigh, glancing at his friend. "I feel bad. My…my family is showing up but yours is still missing and I'm not…" He trails off, gritting his teeth and nodding - never one to turn down food - reaching out to take it. "Thanks," he murmurs, while Zoi gobbles down the biscuit in a single chomp. Chewing is for wimps.

"I'm happy for you, Ezra." D'ani really means that. "Be happy, if you can. I mean, I know it's complicated, but don't not be for my sake." He reaches into the sack, removes a piece of chicken after Ezra does, bites and chews thoughtfully, giving his friend a sidelong look as he breaks off his words. "You're not what?" he prompts after the silence stretches. Zoi is teaching him to rethink doggie treats. The next biscuit has a tiny piece broken off and flicked a little ways off so she can at least work a little for her goodies.

Zoi scoots forward, using her legs to claw and slide her body so she doesn't have to actually /stand/ to go get her food. As she does that, Ezra sighs. "I'm not happy. But I am. But…I don't know how I feel," the boy sighs, admitting it all with a shake of his head and a downcast gaze. "It's so hard to see him," he whispers. "He's all…beaten up and he's /different/. And I am too. And I don't…I don't trust him, D'ani. How can I not trust my own brother?" His words are barely whispered, and when they trail off he just sighs, putting his head down and - for once - ignoring his food.

D'ani eats while Ezra talks, but he's listening intently, nodding gently. That question hangs in the air while D'ani chews, swallows and forms his thoughts. "Life changes people," he points out logically. "Usually you're around to see the changes so they don't seem so striking. It's a shock right now, but it'll wane in awhile." As for the trust issues, "You've both been through a lot. He wasn't able to protect you from things. He is your older brother - you used to look up to him, yeah?" He waits to see Ezra's answer, then goes on, "Learning he's vulnerable and can fail you is an adjustment. What you're feeling is so natural, Ezra. I think he will need to re-earn your trust and that it will take time." And as the explanation leaves his lips, he winces. Will his sisters go through much the same struggles when he finds them?

Ezra plays with his food, picking at it and tossing little bits to Zoi. "I've changed too," he murmurs. "Must be a shock for him, too." He exhales softly, and nods. "He's my big brother. The heir to Stonehaven. Yeah, I looked up to him. A lot. We were best friends…" But then he failed him, completely and utterly. "How long?" the boy asks, glancing at D'ani with such uncertainty and pain in his pale green eyes. "I don't like feeling like this but I couldn't just…just pretend that everything was fine. I'm so angry with him. And I don't know if Anrila is safe either… How can I just…just…get over it?" Seeing that wince, Ezra frowns. "What?"

D'ani resumes eating, tossing the chicken bone into the bag, selecting another piece and taking a bite. That search and climb gave him an appetite and it's getting close to dinnertime. Glancing over and then held by the pain in those green eyes, he lowers the chicken he was about to bite. "You don't just get over it. It happens when it happens I think. And that, likely, will depend on the circumstances. I know it's unpleasant, but the anger is normal, Ezra and I think I'd be worried if you weren't. Talking about it helps speed the process, but also accept that you can't force your feelings. So don't bottle it up and when you can, talk it out with Rayathess." So many mindhealer-type thoughts! Who knew working with cows could develop these in a beastcrafter? He considers Anrila's plight. "Remember Rayathess did keep her safe while in the Renegade camps and he got her out of there. So if you sort of think of that as a 'trust point' in his favor? That might help." The prompt from Ezra sends his gaze drifting to the panorama before them - that splendid view - and yet he's seeing the turquoise waters of Maiona. "I'm just realizing that Mirna and Anira will likely have the same struggles with me as you do with Rayathess."

Ezra continues to pick at his food and then he finally takes a bite. "Felt like I was just getting back to normal," he murmurs. "With you, and Inri, and Zoi…was making plans to take back Stonehaven…" Silent for a moment, he sighs. "Talking is hard," he murmurs. "With him, at least. It's awkward and hard. I just…down there…I wanted to hit him and hug him and yell and cry all at once and I just couldn't do anything." His head bobs slightly and sighs, taking another nibble of food. "He did," he says with a small nod, "but she's still missing. Is…I wonder if he's telling the truth about it." And he winces away from that thought. "I just can't…after everything, I can't /believe/ anything until I've seen it because what if she's dead and then I'll have my hopes up for nothing." Rubbing a hand over his face earns him a few Zoi licks, until he pushes her away. "They wouldn't," he says quietly. "It's different. You're looking for them, all the time, and I was looking too, and you've done everything to find them. Everything," and he's firm on that, defending his friend.

There's a sad sort of smile from D'ani for that admission of near-normalcy of Ezra's And yet, he wouldn't unwish Rayathess' return for it. "It is," he agrees of talking being awkward and hard, "but so worth it." He turns his head to regard his friend for a long moment. "Maybe you should just do that," he suggests seriously of punching and hugging and yelling and crying at his brother. "You know," he says thoughtfully, "I'm not sure I trust him entirely myself either, but for your sake, I want to. I want him to be telling the truth." He pauses to eye his unfinished chicken critically, "It's hard to have hopes dashed, so I totally get that." He leans fractionally so his shoulder touches Ezra's, aiming to comfort since his hand is holding a greasy piece of chicken. "I'm looking, but not finding. I'm failing them," he notes somberly. Time is slipping by, which leads to his drive on his current activity. "I'm leading the wing to go find Anrila and bring her back," he tells Ezra. "Th'ero has said I can have you be in it."

Ezra leans back against his friend, and then sort of slumps there. "Maybe," he says quietly. "But…I don't trust him…s'hard for me to open up…" D'ani knows that. Then the boy frowns with a soft sigh. "But you're /trying/. You're trying your hardest. We'll find them," he says with firm, stubborn confidence, looking up at his best friend. "We will. Your sisters and my sister." Then he nods, and smiles a little bit. "I'm glad Th'ero picked you." If there's question in the boy's mind as to why the Weyrleader chose an untried Weyrling for this task, he does not voice it. "Good, I want to be a part of it. Who else?"

D'ani nods. He does know that and so doesn't push the idea. He also knows some sort of catalyst will probably occur to cause it to happen if the two don't completely avoid each other. "I am, but they don't know that," he reasons. "When I do find them," because he knows he will one day, "They'll have feelings of anger to deal with. As we both know, those feelings don't just go poof in the face of logical explanations of why they shouldn't." There's a subtle irony to his counter point, is Ezra drawing any parallels here? Maybe Th'ero has caught wind of D'ani's search experience? It wouldn't surprise D'ani, but he's not going to question why the Weyrleader chose him either! Or allowed him to team with yet more untried Weyrlings and a young boy. "Inri," he ought to like that? says the tiny experimental sideways glance and curl at the corners of his mouth, "Abigail and you." Just them. No grownups. Because weyrlings don't count, right?

Ezra nods his head a little bit, and if he's drawing parallels, he doesn't see them as unusual. Surely everyone knows about D'ani's sisters, right? "Well, they'll forgive you, because you're…D'ani." And D'ani is the bestest D'ani in the world. Leaning more against his friend's shoulder, Ezra sighs and then tucks his issues with Rayathess away for now. "Inri and Abigail and me?" That's it? He seems happy, sitting up a bit to smile. "That's a good group. Real good. We'll find her for sure." Ahh, childhood belief and faith.

All they're lacking is pixie dust. D'ani is a touch more somber with his nod. "We'll find Anrila," he assures Ezra. And he doesn't mean to let his best friend down! At least he is absolutely sure she's out there somewhere while in the very dark corners of his mind where he shoves unwanted thoughts so he can live in denial he suspects his sisters may not be. Anrila, on the other hand, has been seen recently, or so Rayathess says. "So yes, it's a good group. Inri's queen can use her powers to… do things. And Abigail is tough. She took me down in weyrling hand to hand." He coughs, sheepish. "And she's a crack shot with her bow." Him? He'll think of something helpful in all this. "So the plan is, we get Rayathess and you to do the harper sketch of Anrila so we know what we're looking for. And your brother can help with one of Laris, so if we run across him we'll know it. And we need to have him show us on the maps where he met up with the caravan." There's a lot of logistics to consider here.

Ezra nods his head again, and sits up, finally taking a good bite of his chicken. "What can Inri's queen do?" he asks, very ignorant in the ways of dragons. "Oooh, did she really? That's…yeah, Abigail will be good to have, then. It's a good wing, D'ani." And he's a part of it. He can't help but puff up a bit with pride at being part of an official (unofficial) wing! Then he sobers and nods. "He's seen her much…sooner than I have. So his sketch'll be better."

D'ani is not really sure, but his reply is a breezily-confident, "Oh stuff like… get the local firelizards to tell us things and maybe determine by subtle mind-probing whether people are telling us lies." At least, the legends he's read say queens can do mysterious things, so maybe there's some truth in it? "She'll be handy for sure," he says of Abigail. He might need a body guard at some point. They all might! He isn't losing sight of the fact that this could be a dangerous mission. "Harpers are trained to pull subtleties from people's minds when they do these sketches. Maybe the harper will combine them," he says, not seeming worried about the sketches. "So, I was thinking. We might have to go places where we pretend to be not-riders or from a Weyr. Do you think you could be convincing at playing herder boy or homeless waif?"

Ezra puts some more effort into eating his food, nodding as he listens. And then at the last question, the boy pauses and swallows, blinking at his friend. "Herder'd be hard for me, I don't know much. Homeless…I can do though," he says with confidence. "Why'd we have to pretend? You're riders, people'll tell you what you want, right?"

"Only in some places," D'ani clarifies. "One, I don't want to tip of Laris' men that the Weyr is looking for a little girl so far from Fort Weyr. He could have his men placed anywhere and if it gets back to him, he'll wonder. Even if he doesn't know who she is, he'll decide she's important enough to get her first and ask questions later." As for his other reasons, all he says is a vague, "We'll play it by ear. I may have to use my gut instincts." Oh fun?

Ezra's eyes narrow in anger at the very thought, and his posture tenses. "We don't want that," he says, low and fierce. "I need a knife," he says a moment later. Perhaps, finally, he will get that blade he begged Th'ero for all those turns ago? "It'll be okay," he says confidently, giving D'ani a genuine smile. "We'll do good, and bring her back home." Like Rayathess couldn't. That's implied, but not stated.

D'ani finishes of the last of his chicken, tucks that bone in the bag with the other one and pulls out a cookie. "We sure don't!" he agrees. But then, "Do you know how to be effective with a knife? Because I don't." So if Ezra needs some training, he'll see about arranging that. "We'll certainly try," he says of bringing Anrila home, flicking a brief look at Ezra for that unspoken jab at Rayathess. Yeah, he got that.

Ezra shrugs his shoulders. "I know a little bit," he says. "I've done that carving and stuff. But, uh. I don't know how to swipe it at people and all that guard stuff. Always wanted to learn but Th'ero said no." To Th'ero's credit, Ezra asked for these things /right/ after Stonehaven, and the Weyrleader did not feel it was a good idea to arm such an emotionally unstable ten turn old.

"Do you know how to throw a knife?" presses D'ani. That might be a handy skill to hone on this venture. He can certainly see why Th'ero might have said no on the knives. "I'll see if Abbey knows someone who can teach us." Us, he says because he doesn't know either. He's good for lassoing people. Then he brightens, snapping his fingers. "I'll bet Rayathess learned a trick or two in the renegade camps!" He'll be sure to ask him next time he sees him.

Ezra nods his head, brightening up considerably. He's going to learn how to throw knives, what boy wouldn't love that? But then he freezes, blanching a bit. "You…want Rayathess to teach us…how to throw knives?"

"Why not? It's to help us bring his sister back safely," D'ani might not have considered all the angles here. Does Ezra have an objection? Though the beastcrafter may poooooossibly be trying for a bit of subtle manipulation on brother-bonding time for Ezra and Rayathess. Ezra won't think of that, well he?

Ezra squirms a little bit. "I just…I don't trust him, D'ani! Why's he down there with /guards/ posted? Th'ero doesn't trust him either and I trust Th'ero." But that admittance costs him in guilt, and likely his father is rolling in his grave right now at the family dynamic that's been left behind.

Patiently, "Maybe for his own protection? I mean, think about it. Laris has got to know by now about the failed Gold Hill raid and that some of his people were taken alive. He could have assassins infiltrate the Weyr and silence them all, right?" D'ani wouldn't be surprised. "Th'ero might not fully trust Rayathess, I can't say. But I do know he could have left him in the cells to keep him safely under guard but he didn't."

Ezra shifts again, head down as he stares at the smooth stony surface. "This hurts," he whispers then. "It hurts to not trust my own big brother, but I…it's…trust is so hard…" Especially when it's been broken. The boy takes a deep breath and then nods. "Okay. We…we can ask Rayathess if he knows knife stuff, and can teach us."

"I know," says Dani, placing a comforting arm about Ezra's shoulders. "You don't have to trust him until you're ready to, okay?" He's pleased with the boy's agreement about Rayathess, however reluctant it is, it is a small step forward. "I'll ask him," he promises. Then a not-so-very-far-off rumble causes him to peer at the darkening sky. We'd better get down before we're in the line of fire. Getting hit by lightning. It could ruin one's plans, no?

Ezra leans against his friend's side, giving him the trust and acceptance that he does not give to his brother. "I don't want to have to choose between you two," he whispers, also looking up at the sky. He'll be ready to go in just a minute, once he's admitted this last little thing.

When Ezra leans against him, D’ani pauses in his move to rise. This is important - he reaches a gentle finger to tip Ezra's chin up so the lad will meet his eyes if he's ducked when admitting that, as he so often does. "You don't have to, Ezra," he assures him firmly. "Rayathess is your brother. I am your friend. You can have both, if you choose." He stresses that word with a warm smile. He means it.

Ezra had looked down, so he looks up when D'ani's finger coaxes him to. "You've felt like my brother," the boy whispers. "Don't want to…don't want you to go away either," he mutters, finding this very difficult to work through, and he squirms with the effort of it.

D'ani doesn't make light of Ezra's struggle. The squirming though prompts him to drop his arm and pull back and give his friend some space. "Ezra," he says easily, "Lots of people have more than one older brother. Some folks have several." The wind is picking up and he rises to peer across the peaks. Looking down at Ezra, he smiles, a wide, warm thing, "I never had a little brother, but you sure fit the bill nicely," he admits honestly. "I suppose I'll always feel like a big brother because I'm not likely to stop feeling protective of you. I'm not going anywhere, either." He watches Ezra's reaction to that. He believes him, right?

Ezra continues to lean against D'ani's side, even when his arm drops, though he does peek upwards through his long lashes to watch D'ani speak. And then he smiles. "Thanks, D'ani," the boy whispers, his voice soft but still audible over the rising winds. "This whole thing is hard and I'm glad you're…you're here with me." And he loops his arm around D'ani's shoulders, giving him a tight hug.

D'ani returns the hug before he rises to have that peek at the weather. "So am I, Ezra," is D'ani's heartfelt response about being here for - and with Ezra. "As much as I can control it, I will always be," he vows seriously. Short of death, he's not abandoning Ezra. He offers a hand to help the younger boy up. "Dinner is some sort of ground wherry pie with a fluffy whipped tuber topping sprinkled with cheese," he coaxes. "It smelled delicious while they were baking it." Hot food after that long hike down? How does that grab Ezra?

Ezra clasps D'ani's hand and gets to his feet as well. "Me too," he promises. "I'll be here for you too." For what it's worth. Since he's just a kid, and not a bronzerider, but still. He has stuff to offer. Not sure what, but there's stuff! Then he brightens, nodding his head. "I'm starving." He hardly touched the chicken, and now that he's feeling better…appetite is a good sign, right?

Ezra may not know it, but he's already done D'ani a world of good just by being Ezra. He's filled an emptiness left by his missing sisters, allowed D'ani to 'big brother' him, but he's rapidly growing to a friend in his own right. And he won't always be a kid. Someday he may offer D'ani a shoulder in time of need. Appetite? Appetite is a very good thing and D'ani is very pleased to hear that the boy is starving. He rattles the bag, the sound of cookies jostling telling what is in there besides more chicken - and chicken bones, of course as he offers it over. What? It's a long walk down! And Ezra is a growing boy?

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