Conclusive Find

Cold Stone Hold - Courtyard

The bones of Pern herself have been pulled from the bosom of the planet and now rest against her spine, stacked by man and beast to defend against an era not long enough gone. Built into the side of one of the many mountains in the region, Coldstone Hold stands as both a grim reminder and as a place of hope, proof of humanity's costly victory over the Thread menace.

High stone barriers serve as walls around the main hold, owing wood for a single gate alone at its main entrance. What buildings there are rise up out of the ground like the tips of great, stony fingers, structures built entirely of rock. Yet, despite the seemingly rough-hewn appearance, a more subtle artistry exists within the hold proper. Walls are arrow-straight in places and artfully curved in others. Cottages and small villas might all be mounds of boulder and pebble, yet each has its own distinct similarities. Over fifteen families live within the sheltering walls of Coldstone, their houses and other structures gathered around a larger, central keep that bears the standards of the Lord and Lady holders themselves.

Around you, the quiet hustle of a hold's daily life can be heard, and while the hold lacks some of the more modern touches seen in the south, its inhabitants do not seem to have noticed at all. The air is thick and crisp, laden with the smells of stone and earth, freshly baked bread and the sweat of beasts. Cold stone with a warm, beating heart.

The wind is rising. It's not dangerous enough to keep dragons grounded - yet - but N'vorre has been watching it with a worried eye. The sky is mostly clear with only scattered clouds, but the wind is picking up already snow and tossing it about, making a fine white haze along the ground. Despite the weather, there are some still searching, seeking for signs of Thea. If the gusts get much stronger, they'll be recalled, but they've a chance to look while the weather holds.

The crags of the High Reaches tower over Cold Stone Hold, the shapes ones that have become familiar to the riders coming through here on their sweeps and consulting with Tharen and his holders to develop the search plan. The highest of them has a sheer cliff facing the hold, too steep and rocky for plants to go… which makes it all the stranger that there's a glimpse of motion from its face, something swinging like a pendulum and dancing in the gusts of wind.

Mur'dah and Kiena have been taking their turns, resting when required, but here as often as they can be. At the moment they're flying back towards the hold from another fruitless search, flying straight to give the area yet another pass, even though it's been gone over many times before. It's Kalsuoth who notices that swinging thing, his keen vision spying the movement in the wind, and he rumbles softly towards Ujinath, thoughts reaching to draw his attention towards it even as Mur'dah squints and peers upwards. What's that? Kalsuoth's wingbeats slow, as Mur'dah continues to peer up, up up towards the peak.

Kiena and Ujinath both have been shadowing Mur'dah during these searches, as it was agreed upon and when the Weyrsecond could. She still has her other duties too, both to Ka'el and the Weyr, but she's learned fast how to balance. She had too, especially with the fallout with Moncerath's flight and Cyrus' confrontation and all the unpleasantness that has caused. Kiena's learned to cover whatever anxieties or worries she has over that up well and as they return from yet another fruitless search, she will do her best to ignore the beginnings of exhaustion hovering at the edges of her mind. Kalsuoth's rumble seems to jolt her, both because she had begun to focus on the wind rising and because Ujinath's rumble is deep enough to be felt as he reaches back for the brown, head craning to also spot that swinging thing where no swinging thing should be. Kiena frowns behind her goggles, features all but hidden behind the mask she wears too and so she signals by hand to Mur'dah. What is it? « Can it be reached safely? In these winds? » Ujinath relays, slowing his wingbeats along with Kalsuoth's so as to remain in formation to the dark brown.

The winds are gusty, which make them all the more dangerous. Maneuvers that would be possible in stiller air become hazardous when unexpected turbulence may get involved. That's what caused all these problems in the first place, isn't it? But for a moment, the air seems calm enough, and if Kalsuoth gets near enough, Mur'dah will see that the swinging object is a pair of riding goggles that hang from a spike of rock, one lens cracked from the force of impact. The wind must have shaken them loose from some crevice, and now the leather strap has caught on a jagged outcropping, leaving them to sway.

Kalsuoth hovers for a moment, and then he rises upwards to get closer to it. Close enough for Mur'dah to see what it is. He pales, eyes widening at what he sees, stomach clenching, mood plummeting. He knew. Somehow, he always knew. « Goggles, » Kalsuoth replies. Mur'dah shifts in the saddle, leaning forward automatically, but Kalsuoth isn't going close to those cliffs. Close enough to see, yes. Touch? No. A moment later, a bronze firelizard appears from between with a chirp and nimbly swoops in to grab the leather strap with his talons, trying to pull it free to take back to Mur'dah.

Ujinath will follow but not get too close to Kalsuoth, hovering just enough to see but not to approach as close as the dark brown will do. Too risky, should the winds rise again and catch one or both of them unaware. Another rumble, likely unheard, as he acknowledges what Kalsuoth informs him with and dutifully passes it on to Kiena, who likewise swears under her breath, her eyes fixed on Mur'dah and then darting to follow that blur of bronze. She snorts and smirks behind her mask. Clever? It'll remain to be seen if Kenpo can pull the goggles free and Kiena keeps Ujinath held where he is, ever mindful and watchful for any change, be it weather or in the brownrider. « Has he managed to pull them free? » And if so, what then? Report and return or search on? Can they go higher or will the winds be against them in that venture?

The goggles resist for a moment, but then… the strap breaks, and they tumble. The time out in the elements has not been kind to them, freezing and thawing the leather repeatedly. Neither was the crash - for they're recognizable enough, if looked at in detail by someone who's familiar. The set of scuff marks have been added to, but not replaced. Thea's goggles.

Kenpo manages to catch the goggles and he soars to deposit them proudly in Mur'dah's outstretched hand. Leaning back in the straps, Kalsuoth drifts back from the dangers of the cliff face while Mur'dah grips the goggles. One lens is broken, the leather now broken as well, and with a thick swallow his finger moves over a gold-script T on the right temple. He doesn't need that though, to recognize his mother's goggles. How often had he seen her wearing them? Almost daily. Memories flicker through his mind and he squeezes his eyes tightly, hand curling gently around the frame of them. « They are his mother's goggles. » If that wasn't clear enough, and Kalsuoth's thoughts drift with dark feathers and a deep forest. « He thinks this is proof she passed between with her queen. To have hit this cliff so hard to remove her goggles, to break a lens… » The brown stops, but Mur'dah's mind continues. What damage would be done to his mother's skull to leave the goggles thus? His own goggles are fogging up, and he lifts his free hand to shift them.

Ujinath breaks away from the cliff as Kalsuoth moves, grateful not to be hovering so close to it and putting some distance between themselves and the rocky surface. Both he and Kiena will wait in tense silence as Mur'dah examines the goggles and the Weyrsecond isn't surprised by Kalsuoth's confirmation, though she still sags in the saddle of her straps. Who's else could it be, this high and remote? Kiena has to shake herself out of her own dark thoughts, concern now edging its way in, among an onslaught of other emotions and decisions to make on the next steps. « We think the same as he does. The goggles can be proof enough, but she wishes to know if yours feels it necessary to search further, if we can, in this section. Winds are problematic. » It be risky. Maybe too risky. That thread is implied quietly in the blue's tone. « Or we can return. Mark this place if we need to come back but for now, we return and we report what you and yours have found. »

Mur'dah twists the goggles in his hand, swallowing thickly as he looks down at them. Mom… Kalsuoth rumbles, a gentle brush of dark feathers to get his attention, and Mur'dah looks around, back towards Kiena. « He thinks we should land and deliver this news. And the winds are picking up. » He does not wish to suffer the same fate. Shifting, the brown begins to head towards the hold.

Kiena makes another gesture with her gloved hand, the signal that she's understood, even as Ujinath rumbles his reply. « We agree. » Simple and to the point. What else is there to be said? He was never one for words to begin with, though oddly he does send a tendril of support to the dark brown and likely on his rider's insistence. Folding his wings, he will begin his descent alongside Kalsuoth, allowing the brown to lead point despite their rank and even before they land, Kiena has Ujinath reach out for others, seeking Yumeth, Luraoth and Kanekith, to report on the findings and what they are about to do.

Mur'dah is glad Kiena takes care of telling the others, as he doesn't have the brain power to do it and Kalsuoth isn't going to suggest it. Landing in the courtyard, the dark brown crouches to let his rider dismount. Spending a moment by his beast's head, Mur'dah waits for Kiena to join him before heading inside, seeking his uncle.

Ujinath lands close to Kalsuoth, trying not to stir up too much loose snow from his sweeping wings before he settles and folds them tight to his side. He rumbles again, his head tilted as if to observe the dark brown with silent curiosity. Could be concern too, though with him it's always a gamble as to what he's thinking (or feeling). Kiena dismounts and pulls her goggles up to rest them on her helmet, pushing her flight mask down despite the still cold winds even here on the ground. Her expression is grim and tense, but she will walk to where Mur'dah waits and she will reach out to either grip his shoulder or take his free hand in hers and squeeze, only to let her hand drift back to her side once they move towards the Hold itself, through the doors and inside.

Kanekith is the first to reply to Ujinath's report, latching on with quick interest. Luraoth's there a second later, following along with interest while Yumeth stays a bit further back in the conversation. The discovery is noted, and - that's when another dragon's mind bursts onto the scene, tumbling out in a chaos of excitement that sends her sprawling into everyone's conversation. She's not actually here, is Yoddweth - the image she shares is of a lake on the other side of the mountain - but she bursts in regardless with a carol of joy. « We found it! » What's it? She… doesn't say. Overexcited, probably. She and Gerra haven't been in Galaxy all that long.

Mur'dah's steps falter as Kalsuoth relays to him. Found…found what? Found it? Them? Her? For a moment the brownrider staggers, his heart leaping with hope for the briefest of moments. What if they found them? What if Seryth wasn't gone? What if they were just injured, knocked out, unconscious somewhere and now they've been found? Or just his mother? What if she's been found? The thoughts tumble through his mind even though he doesn't want them there, with their false hopes and stark realities making him crash back to earth a moment later. His hand tightens around the goggles. /No/. They're /gone/. « Found /what/? » Kalsuoth replies, a bit sharp with his rider's emotions held at bay. Mur'dah delivers his report quietly to his uncle, the man's stoicism echoed in his nephew.

Kiena's steps falter as well but mostly from being caught off guard by Mur'dah's sudden staggering. Instantly, she reaches out to steady him, pressing in close as her hand grips at his arm just above the elbow and she mutters a few low spoken words of encouragement to him. Inwardly, she is cursing Yoddweth's timing and making a note about their overexcited behavior but she'll keep her temper in check and her thoughts turn to what exactly, the pair could have found. A lake? Her mind is being pulled in too many directions at once and she starts to prioritize. First, she steps back from Mur'dah when the brownrider regains his stride and follows him to greet Tharen and confirm the findings, as well as discuss the next steps, likely agreeing with the use of a ground crew. And all the while, some of her thoughts stay linked with Ujinath, as the blue joins Kalsuoth in his inquiry to Yoddweth. Sharp and blunt and not masking his annoyance for the carolled joy in which she burst in. What exactly, did they find?

Yoddweth answers Kalsuoth and Ujinath's questioning with flashes of imagery. A remote mountain valley with a narrow lake, choked by ice. The sky is clear and blue, pierced by sharp peaks rising up above the forests, and there's a small cottage nestled near the frozen shores. An aerial view, and then there's a flash of something from the snowy ground. The frozen lake, perhaps? But no, it's brighter than ice buried under snow, with a warmer sort of gleam. There that shine is again, reflecting Rukbat's light through a gap in the wind-blown snow. Yoddweth's next image is from the ground. The cottage is close, now, but more interesting is what's in her rider's hands: a small golden locket. Gerra fumbles off a glove, in that dragon-shared memory, and opens it to reveal… Muir and Marella. Of course, they're rather older now, and go by somewhat different names… but they're still recognizable enough from the pair of four-turn-old children pictured inside that locket.

Mur'dah leans into Kiena's grasp and then he staggers again, having to stop and lean against the wall, his mother's goggles clutched to his chest as he sees what Kalsuoth sees, what Yoddweth sees, what Gerra sees. It's images within images and it's disorienting enough without taking the subject into account. He's crying without even knowing it, because for a moment he isn't even here, in his own body. He's elsewhere, mind swirling, emotions churning. The locket. "She…" What? Did she? He tries to think, fails, wipes at his eyes. "Mother's locket," he whispers, as if Kiena couldn't figure that out on her own.

Tharen will be in his office, there coordinating the ground searches, pouring over maps to relieve the reports as they come in with a stoic demeanor. Someone breezes in with the rumor that Thea's goggles have been found and Tharen swings into action before it's confirmed. It doesn't mean Thea's…gone. It just means…that's where they hit. It's too windy for aerial searching, but he'll get the ground crew, made up of the men used to steep, rocky slopes to go comb the crags and ensure that his sister doesn't lie caught in one of the clefts. He'll direct them to search in the dark with torches and lanterns, when Rukbat drops behind the peaks and the tiny pinpoints of light will be seen bobbing and wavering out there until dawn….

Kiena did figure it out on her own, thanks to Ujinath offering the feedback of imagery from Yoddweth and she will tighten her grip on Mur'dah when he staggers again, swearing low and quiet under her breath. She'll wait until the last of it is shared and already has Ujinath committing Yoddweth's location to memory, working out the coordinates they'll need… just in case. Her emotions are twisting and conflicting, her thoughts racing as her eyes watch Mur'dah carefully. "Do you need to go there? Or do you want Yoddweth to come here?" she asks him in as gentle a tone as possible. They'll have to notify Tharen first of the discovery of the goggles too and when he moves into action, then they can better plan their next move.

Mur'dah grits his teeth, shaking his head. "I have to go there," he whispers. "Have…tell her to stay there." He's too unfocused to ask Kalsuoth to reach to Yoddweth, as he turns and begins to stride towards the exit again, back out to the courtyard. "I have to go, I have to see…and get the locket…"

"Alright," Kiena whispers at first and then steadies herself, eyes blinking furiously as she strives to clear her head of her tangled emotions. Focus, focus. "Alright," she repeats firmly and then her head tilts, eyes unfocused as she has Ujinath do just that. He'll request that Yoddweth stay there by the lake and when she has finished with that, the Weyrsecond will follow Mur'dah out to the courtyard. "And we will!" Kiena states, only to try and slow him down. Not stop him, she's not so foolish as to hinder him like that but she will grip his shoulders. "We'll go, Mur'dah." Focus. Steady. She doesn't say it, but it's in her eyes as she looks up at him, concerned, even as Ujinath begins to stretch his wings and wait patiently for his rider to mount up.

Mur'dah fumbles a bit to stick his mother's goggles into his riding straps, safe and secure. He turns when Kiena grips his shoulder, jaw clenched and eyes bright. Too bright. He reads between the lines of what she says and despite his desire to just /go/, he forces himself to stop. What would Marel do if he vanished today as well? He can't stand that thought and so he closes his eyes, steadying himself. Right. Steady. Focused. "Okay. I'm ready." He'll turn then, mount up, and send Kalsuoth aloft. The pair hover until Ujinath joins them, and then with a shared image they wink between.


Cold Stone Hold - Remote Mountain Lake

Fed by glacial runoff, this lake lies in a remote mountain valley created turns of ice grinding through the windswept peaks that loom over a long, narrow lake. Unbelievably clear, the waters shimmer with the same startling azure hue as the sky is on clear days. When the wind cooperates, the surface reflects the sharp peaks that rise above deep forests painted in Autumn's golds and oranges and vivid reds. Towards one end, a small pebbled beach creates a gravelly shore large enough to land a couple of large dragons on. From there, a path curves around a thicket of red maples, passes though a small clearing, leads towards a rustic cabin that can be just glimpsed back under the trees at the forest's edge. Occupied for the spring and summer, during late fall, when the stock has been brought down to the lower paddocks in readiness for winter, this herder's cottage stands empty.

Kiena can see that brightness in his eyes and her concern only grows until Mur’dah steadies himself and she allows herself to relax a little. Better. That’s better. She exhales slowly and nods, “Good.” No need for lengthy words. Action works better here and she will turn to swiftly mount up on Ujinath, buckle in and send the blue aloft to join Kalsuoth, his mind linking with the dark brown’s and solidifying the image they need, confirming it, before going Between… and appearing high above the lake Yoddweth had shown them. Folding his wings, Ujinath will make a steep descent, pushing the boundaries of “acceptable” by a small margin and he will not correct Kalsuoth if the brown follows suit, so long as they do not push farther into “dangerous” and “reckless”.

Kalsuoth, being larger and tired, takes a slower route to land, settling after the smaller blue does. Dismounting, Mur’dah strides straight for Gerra, his hand out, wordless. When she drops the locket into his gloved palm he gulps, shifting it to his other hand so he can pull off his gloves with his teeth. With the locket gleaming against his bare palms, he gently opens it. Yes. There, two pictures look back at him. His own face and his twin’s, when they were four. “She wore this…” He swallows thickly. “Always. She always wore this.” She’s never been without it. To see it not around his mother’s neck… “It’s not broken.” He frowns, looking skyward. Then he looks around. “We…we used to come here. On vacation, with Mom and with Dad. Dad didn’t like my grandfather.” Understandably. Mur’dah didn’t even like him in the end. “So…she…” He looks at the locket, closing his fingers around it. Trying to figure it all out. He looks up again, remembering, as painful as it is, Seryth’s final moments. “They emerged, in the blizzard…hit the cliff. They vanished…came out here?” He looks around with a confused look. Why here? Why not home? “Then…somehow…this fell off?” He holds it up again. It’s not broken, the wide chain. Could have slipped over her head though. “Fell?”

Ujinath is tired too and made for a slightly speedier decent to stave off having to fly sedately. Once on the ground, Kiena will dismount as well, patting the blue’s side before she’s off to follow Mur’dah. There’s a brisk nod to Gerra as she lifts her goggles up to her helmet again, blue eyes scanning their surroundings and for a moment is in awe of the beauty of the place. It’s a brief moment however and soon she returns her focus to Mur’dah, coming to stand by his side and once the locket is safely in his hands, she will dismiss Gerra. No need for her to linger here, though Kiena does mutter a quick thank you for her work and sharp lookout. “It’s a beautiful place,” she murmurs quietly to him, glancing from the locket, to his eyes and then up to the skies. What happened? Mur’dah’s theory has her expression grim and dark and she shivers despite the layers of clothes and riding gear on her person. Her gloved hand comes to grip his shoulder firm and tight. “If this was familiar enough… it may have been an attempt to escape the blizzard…” she says quietly, recalling those memories as she remembers them from Ujinath. “I’m not sure how the chain is unbroken though.” She’s a smith, she’d know a bit about metals and that the locket is in one piece seems to fascinate her. “It must have slipped off…” Somehow.

Mur’dah shakes his head, holding up the wide chain, slipping it over his own head. Mostly so he doesn’t drop it because his hands are now trembling. “It…it must have just fell off. Maybe if they were falling…” He frowns, running his hands through his hair and sighing, shaking his head. “She…I don’t know. Maybe they tried to get home but didn’t make it. I…” He looks around again. “So…she’s…she’s gone, then,” he whispers, his voice eerie and quiet in this beautiful place. This place that held so many happy memories. And still does, but now it holds this one too. “The goggles, the locket… She’s gone. We’ll search the lake, check the cabin, just in case, but…she wouldn’t have…she never would have let this locket go.”

Kiena frowns heavily, her eyes troubled as she looks out over to the lake. “It could be… Fast enough…” She doesn’t wish to go down that path of thought too far and quickly cuts it off, her gaze turning back to Mur’dah again as he sighs and then comes to a conclusion concerning both Seryth and Thea’s fate. Her features soften and she’ll reach out for him, even if to just hug him briefly. Kiena can find no other logical explanation to give and yet she can’t voice what she thinks may be true and the gesture to hug him is both for comfort and to show him that she agrees with him and his theory. “We’ll search,” she whispers when she regains her voice, stepping back. “Do you want me to inform Ka’el about this? Soriana and Sorrin too?” They would need to know. Her eyes drift back towards the lake again and she exhales heavily, suddenly feeling so very, very weary. “We could search the lake and cabin tomorrow, maybe or later…” She peers up at the sky, as if to check the amount of daylight left to them. “… Tharen needs to know…” And Marel too. She looks to Mur’dah then, silently questioning. Will he go?

Mur’dah returns the hug and then looks at her, his eyes searching. Earnest. “I mean…that’s…it’s what it probably means, right? I’m not just…thinking… I mean… She’s probably gone right? I…we’ll still look, I don’t want to give up hope, but…” Reality. It seems to point to his mother being gone. “This is so hard,” he whispers, clutching his mother’s locket. “Without…seeing…we’ll never /know/.” He’s silent a moment, and then he nods. “Yeah. They need to know. Whoever needs to know, if she hasn’t told them already…” Another nod. “Tharen, yes. And Marel. Yeah. I’ll…yeah. We should go back to the hold. Suggest to the searchers they look here.” He looks towards the cabin in the distance, nodding his head. “Search all around here, in case…” In case his mother made it here, is in that cabin… He’s suddenly running towards it.

“No, you’re not the only one thinking it, Mur’dah. I do too. I don’t want to give up hope either or certainly tear down yours,” Kiena murmurs in a quiet voice as she meets his eyes and holds his gaze. “The signs…” All point to both Seryth and Thea being gone. She swallows thickly and then nods, grimacing. “It’s very hard. Very difficult.” she adds as she reaches out to clasp his arm again. “I’ll have Ujinath relay to Kanekith, Luraoth and Yumeth then, while we return to the hold. Settle the news with Tharen.” More to plan, more to organize. Kiena’s head already feels like it can’t absorb much more but she’ll stubbornly push her way through it. One step at a time and… She blinks as Mur’dah is suddenly running, lurching a bit on spot as her hand slips abruptly from his arm. “Mur’dah!” she calls, swearing under her breath as it takes her a moment to get her feet under her to follow him.

He just has to check, that’s all. Just has to look in the cabin and see. Running up to it, he grabs the handle and pushes open the door, stepping inside. “Mom?” he calls, searching quickly through the entire cabin. It’s empty, of course, but… He just /had/ to see. Stepping back outside, maybe before Kiena even gets there, he rubs his hands over his face. “We should fly straight if the dragons can handle it,” he mumbles. “I can’t…my brain is so gone.”

Kiena will in fact reach him just as he’s stepping back outside, a touch out of breath as she approaches him, her cheeks flushed red not from annoyance (she wouldn’t ever be, in this case!), but from the chill cold air and her rushing to follow him. She’ll reach for him again, hand clasping his shoulder this time as if to steady him. “We can take a break if necessary, if you really feel you cannot concentrate. Kalsuoth can always piggyback with Ujinath Between…” Yet even then doubt flickers in her eyes. No, straight flight may be best, if it’s not a long, long stretch. They’ve time but not that much time. “We can also rest here a moment. Let yourself recover… You’re absorbing so much, so fast.” Might be time to just breath?

Mur’dah’s hand seeks hers to grasp, fingers twining. “We need to get back to the hold, I need to show these things to Uncle Tharen and Marel…” He takes a few slow breaths, his eyes closed. “It’s not that far to the hold. Let’s fly straight. I can nap in the straps and Kalsuoth says he’s okay for it…”

Kiena’s hand and fingers twine with his and squeeze firmly. “Alright,” she agrees but there is reluctance in her voice. She takes a step forwards and though part of her is asking her if now is the appropriate time, she ignores it. Unless he moves away, she will seek to briefly and fleetingly kiss him, before drawing back just enough to be close and look up at him. “You have Kalsuoth tell Ujinath and myself if you need to rest, both of you, at anytime, alright?” It’s not a demand for a promise, or even a direct order. She hasn’t pulled her Weyrsecond rank on him yet and doesn’t ever wish to. It’s just a request and one she trusts he’ll heed, if it ever comes to past. Part of her is aware that the flight is not long and that Mur’dah could handle it, but most of her will worry all the same. He’s been through so much. They all have! “Let’s go back,” she murmurs and will begin to turn back to follow their tracks as best she can to where the dragons wait, staying close to his side until it’s time to mount up and buckle in.

Mur’dah is a bit startled, but he leans down to return her kiss just the same, and gives her a tired smile. “I will,” he promises. He won’t endanger himself. Or Kalsuoth. Not now. Moving back to his lifemate he mounts up and buckles in, the brown waiting a moment before he kicks into the sky and uses all those air currents to fly back to the hold, while Mur’dah dozes in the straps.

Kiena will lean forwards to fondly pat Ujinath’s neck as the blue rumbles just as Kalsuoth takes wing. “You can do it,” she whispers and that seems sufficient enough encouragement to have him spread his wings and take to the skies after the dark brown. He’ll use every trick in the book to keep from tiring out. Blues aren’t known for their stamina, like browns are, but Ujinath will make it to the hold (barely) and land, exhausted, by the courtyard. No more flying, at least not for a few moments anyways. Kiena’s not exactly thrilled, having not dozed in the straps but had to keep a constant battle of wills with her lifemate, as well as work through a few relayed inquiries and Faranth knows what else. Yet once she’s on the ground and has checked over Ujinath and seen that he’s settled comfortably, she’ll join Mur’dah again, letting him take lead from this point on and remaining at his side, supportive.

Mur’dah leads them into the hold, leading Kiena to his room. “You can rest here while I to talk to Uncle Tharen and Marel…” Maybe they’ll be together, or maybe not, he doesn’t know. “I’ll be back as soon as I’m done, okay?” He squeezes her arm gently and offers her cheek a kiss before making sure she’s comfortable (or as comfortable as any of them can get right now) before going to seek his uncle.

Mur’dah will find Tharen in his office. Apparently he’s just come in from one of the search teams and has yet to hear any recent news. His jacket is slung over the chair behind the desk, he’s still in his boots, clumps of melting snow slowly sliding down them, his trous are soaked halfway up his lean thighs. This is ignored in favor of pouring over a map spread across the desk he stands over, both hands braced upon the surface while he frowns at it intently.

Mur’dah gently knocks on his uncle’s office door, or the frame if the door is open. “Uncle,” he says, stepping slowly inside and shoving his gloves into a pocket. “We found a few things…not Mom, but…some of her things.” No need to beat around the bush, right? He doesn’t want to give false hope by saying ‘we found something’ and leaving that hanging.

Tharen’s head snaps up at that call. Ice green eyes, identical to his sister’s find Mur’dah and even as he straightens and starts around that desk he’s beckoning his nephew closer. He doesn’t ask what, not yet. “Where?” His voice is low, urgent while a hand reaches to Mur’dah’s forearm in attempt to draw him back towards the desk and that map. “Show me!” he gestures at the document, still meaning where. Time is of the essence! His lips are moving silently, likely calculating how many teams he needs to search where they found…what was it? He doesn’t seem focused on that, only on finding Thea.

Mur’dah is pulled forward and he looks at the map, blinking at it for a moment. Flashback? Likely. “Here,” he says, tapping the peak, “and here,” and he taps by the lake on the other side. “Uncle, we found her goggles. And…” He swallows thickly. “And this.” Out comes the locket, gripped in his hand and shown against his palm. “She wasn’t in the cabin, no sign of her anywhere…” He looked before coming here.

Tharen’s eyes have spent too many hours pouring over maps the past few days when he should have been sleeping after helping search teams on the slopes. He’s beginning to look haggard. Those eyes follow Mur’dah’s finger eagerly and the spot on the peak is swiftly marked with a pen he’s grabbed from his desktop. His hand is in the process of following Mur’dah’s to the lake, a muttered oath, questioning consternation about the location. That’s marked and stared at, his attention to the words spoken only slowly drawing his attention. Bloodshot eyes lift to what Mur’dah holds. The goggles…he winces seeing the shattered lens, the locket… he’s seen many times. She’d oft fingered it fondly. In recent turns he’s caught her eyes lifted to the high pasture while her fingers gripped it almost painfully. “…at the lake you say?”

Mur’dah pulls the goggles out of his pocket to show his uncle as well, nodding thickly. “The locket at the lake. The goggles hanging from a…on a rock, thing…up on the cliff…” He glances at the map, taking a slow breath.

It’s not a conscious effort that sees Tharen’s fingers releasing that pen, allowing it to roll from them, continuing of its own momentum across the map until it slows and, ironically. stops with the tip pointing to the spot on the map where the lake they found the locket lies. The holder of Cold Stone doesn’t notice that, however. He’s reaching a forefinger to lightly touch the locket with the tip. He knows the scenario. The dragonriders have told him that Seryth went Between three times - once to get here, once in distress and one final time… That she came out on the other side of the mountain range from where the goggles were found is starkly evident in the find of that locket. And she was not there… He has no words. Not right now. Now he can only turn and stride to the window, look out and stare up to that peak, the one that looms over Cold Stone Hold while his hands grip the sill and his jaw clenches so tight the muscles of his cheek tense. Later he will seek out his family… what’s left of it…and speak words both of comfort and of grief. Right now he’s blind and deaf to everything but the fact that to the brother of Thea, his sister is no more.

Mur’dah watches his uncle, his heart breaking anew. Tears roll down his cheeks but he doesn’t even notice them. Biting hard on his lower lip he watches his uncle move to the window, his own eyes looking past to the peak as well. He takes a slow breath, murmurs something unheard, and turns to leave him - for now - alone with his grief. He needs to go find his twin.

Continues in Forever and Ever

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