Xanadu Weyr - Deep Forest Clearing

Between stepping over tree roots and pushing your way through ambitiously high bushes, you almost stumble into the clearing before you. Some bizarre force of nature has pushed the trees outwards to form a rough circle that is nearly one hundred feet across at its center. Low grass covers its interior, and curious looking bushes appear to have been transplanted from elsewhere, forming an isle down it's middle. Their blooms are vibrantly colored and each bush has a strong, pungent aroma that suggests something beyond the ordinary about the fauna in this area.

A large patch of earth off to one side is home to a circle of stones, ash in the center, and a sturdy log has been dragged before it, possibly as a makeshift bench. The earth has been freshly turned in several locations, suggesting that something was buried within the last month. All in all, it appears to be a delightful camping spot. It would be almost idyllic, except for the subtle presence of animal tracks found near the circle's edge and around the makeshift fire pit. The tracks have clearly not been made by man or dragon kin.
The path that runs east-west through the forest can clearly be seen here, though it begins to turn north near the west end of the clearing.

First month of Summer brings out the best of Xanadu's weather and today is no different. Overhead soft, fluffy clouds drift lazily across a sky of blue while a gentle breeze stirs the green grasses underfoot. The surrounding forest has recovered from the fire a few turns back to the point where saplings are high enough to provide dappled green shade and many of the older trees were hardy enough to weather the fire storm and re-leaf, which brings this particular clearing into deep shade. The twins are walking now and have been for several months, which means… nature walks, of course! That and it helps tire the pair out enough to sleep at night. And so it is that Thea has packed picnic stuff and blanket, taken Muir and Marella off the nannies hands today and walked… and walked - half the day's worth, following the twins as they randomly wandered up the trail into the forest, stopping to peek at rocks and flowers and bugs. She didn't mean to come so far…

Well than it might be a good thing that D'had has decided to follow them after takeing care of some things at the office, and weyr in general. Of course following is made easier since he can get a general location from Seryth. Someone's going to help carry the twins back. Unlikely they're going to walk so far back.

Thankfully the clearing occupies the twins long enough for Thea to set down that shoulder bag and flip the blanket out onto a soft grassy spot before she has to corral the pair from wandering further up the trail. Swift steps take her to intercept them, for the trail becomes far rougher and more dangerous from here, as she well remembers - or has been told - it is where she fell half a mile down into the ravine. Turning the pair around, she points to some flowers in the clearing's center and they toddle off in that direction, which will give her a few moments to unpack lunch. If they're followed, she's unaware as yet.

D'had's approach is marked by by the sounds of someone else on the trail. Whether or not Thea notices it is another question though. When he comes upon the clearing he tosses a glance towards her as she unpacks, but leaves her to it in favor or coming up behind the twins. A ruffle of their hair and some quiet whispers from the Weyrsecond later and the three of them are collecting a handful of those flowers.

It's Muir's squealed "Da!" That alerts Thea, her ears more attuned to the twins babble of voices as to where they are in relation to that cliff trail than footfalls on the path behind them. She raises her head just in time to spot Muir lift his forefinger and show his daddy what's crawling on it - a fat shiny black beetle of some sort. "Bug!" The boy announces proudly and thereafter pops said finger, bug and all into his mouth, which finger is removed sans bug a beat later. A curious expression settles on the boy's face as he feels the insect squirm on his tongue. Thea blinks, opens her mouth, closes it again, but D'had is closer to the boy. Nevertheless, she rises and heads over that way with a smile for him, "Hey. Didn't hear you coming." Obviously glad to see him, her face shows she's surprised, while back at the weyrbarn Seryth sends a smug tendril of snickering triumph to Siebith. « Got her! »

"Yes, that's a," D'had starts, that smirk of his on his face at the boy's announcement. That is until the bug goes in his mouth. "No, no. Don't do that," he quickly switches modes as he tries to open the toddler's mouth and extract said bug. Eww. Not for eating. "Figured it'd be a nice surprise," he replies distractedly towards Thea.

But just who surprised whom here? Muir fights, but alas, he's no match for his daddy's finger and perhaps the thing isn't tasting all that great anyway, for he's opening his mouth a second later with a soggy beetle swimming for dear life on his tongue. Blaughh! Muir's eyes are squinched shut and his tongue protrudes in a wordless, 'Help me' sort of offering. Eww is right. Thea will just let him handle this one. Marella, meanwhile has both baby hands full of pink, purple and white flowers, sweetly sing-songing, "Da-dee no-no, flo-wer see?" She's holding them up for inspection, green eyes alight with the joy of the moment - until she sees that bug on her brother's tongue and she scolds, "Mur! No!" with an indignant mini-frown as she's scooped up by her mother. Amused, Thea watches father and son with a grin flickering on her mouth, assuring him, "It is."

Once the boy's mouth is open it doesn't take much to make sure the bug is out and tossed away before D'had scoops him up. Straightening he turns to Thea with a shake of his head, a chuckle for Marella's scolding of her brother remaining in his expression. "Didn't taste so good, did it," he comments to the boy, and then to Thea, "We -were- pickin' some flowers for ya." As Marella so sweetly pointed out.

Muir's still making squinchy-faces, lifting one hand to rub the aftertaste off his tongue even as he's lifted into his daddy's arms. He might agree with his father but sisterly admonishment must be deflected first. "Mar, yah!" He's nodding vigorously to argue with her. Male pride intact, he ducks his dark head against D'had's neck to snuggle there and give her a look of triumph. He won - he has daddy! Marella lifts her flowers and Thea dutifully sniffs, telling all of them, "Thank you," a kiss to first Marella's, then Muir's soft cheeks and one to her weyrmate as well, standing on tiptoes and leaning around the girl in her arms. "Come eat," she motions with her chin to that set out picnic over on the blanket.

D'had chuckles, rolling his eyes a bit for the argument between the pair. He leans a cheek against the boy's head momentarily before then leaning over to share that kiss with Thea following her thanks. He dutifully follows towards the blanket taking a seat on the edge and settling the boy beside him. Hopefully he'll stay well enough with the prospect of food at hand. "So then, what'd ya all bring?"

Thea settles Marella astride one hip, her arm looped around the child's waist as she turns and strides across the grass, her steps graceful, practiced across the rough ground. "Well, lets see what cook packed," Marella is placed in front of her as she sinks to sit in one motion cross-legged behind her daughter. She passes D'had a few plates and a container of peeled cubed fruit and lifts another to show cubed cheese, which she places on a plate for Marella before passing over as well. There are a few other containers - all of finger-sized foods, but unlike the repast they shared months ago in the guest weyr, this is baby-friendly, simple and unlikely to be choked upon. There is cold boneless fried chicken pieces, crackers, cookies and juice and plenty for all of them.

"Looks good," D'had comments filling a plate to share with Muir. Probably best not to let the boy have his own at this point after all. A piece of that fruit is handed over to him, "Here," D'had starts, a subtle smile for the toddler. "Will help with that yucky bug taste." Then to Thea, "So how was your walk?"

Muir leans forward and accepts that fruit bit with open mouth rather than fingers. His reply to his father's comment is a grunt and a "Mmm," followed by a smirky one-sided curl of lips up at the man, dark eyes glinting in a silently-shared joke. Thea gently disengages Marella from her bouquet, brushing off the petals and stem bits that cling to little fingers, then drops things a few pieces at a time on Marella's plate, watching carefully as she pinch-picks things delicately and munches. She considers the question while she busies herself passing a small bottle of juice across to D'had for Muir. When she answers, she sounds tired, but at least relaxed, "Was fun. Muir found some rocks." She nods to the boy's bulging pockets, adding, "We'll need to take those from him when he's not looking. Marella found those-" she indicates his daughter's trous which are covered with some sort of clinging seeds. Seems someone likes to go off-trail. And someone else is tuckered by herding duty.

D'had chuckles. "Sounds like it was a good thing I came out then," he replies to Thea with a wink. At least she'll not have to herd and/or carry them back all on her own. "Least ya all had fun though. Hmm?" They did. Right? Bug tasting aside. He mirror's his weyrmates movement of shifting a few pieces from his own plate to Muir's. That bottle is held where the boy can reach should he want it.

"We," Thea notes wryly between a bite of chicken and a sip from the larger canteen of juice, "are." She leans to pass it to him adding, "Next time, you're coming with us from the get-go." There's a weary outrush of breath as she tells him that. "Need to get them ready for the mountains, you know." She pauses to hand Marella a cracker, waiting until the child has it and watches her bite the thing. Muir over there is chowing down as fast as his sister, the pair of them quiet save for small satisfied noises and lip smacking. "Mama, yant." Muir's hand is out for a cracker too and she is in the process of passing him one when something catches her eye beyond the treeline. "Don't… move!" Her voice is urgent, "I thought-" she swallows as a low-voiced growl issues from the underbrush.

"Good, and next time I will if ya mention it." Say something before he's in the middle of a stack of paperwork. They both know how well that goes over with him. Definetly not his favorite thing. Dark eyes flick towards the brush, the hand with the bottle of juice in it sneaking protectivly around Muir. "What is it..?" D'had questions, his own voice low. She's the one who can see whatever it is though.

Thea is frozen very real fear within the ice-green eyes that scan the underbrush. There's nothing but silence from the forest surrounding the open spot - hardly reassuring as the children continue their lunch unaware of the tension in the adults. Muir takes that cracker his mother is still holding out, forgotten in her preoccupation. Through pale lips she mutters, "I thought I saw something spotted-" she flickers a look at her weyrmate, then back to the underbrush, the tip of her tongue flicks out to moisten her suddenly-dry mouth, moving to hover over Marella as she continues her watch. There are no more sounds from the underbrush, rather the forest has grown eerily quiet. No chirping birdsong. Nothing rustling. Silence, heavy and foreboding.

D'had hmms to himself, dark eyes scaning the space to either side of him and that behind Thea. The space he doesn't have to turn his head to see. She can keep an eye on that for him. "Pack up those containers.." he notes a nod towards them as he reaches for a piece of chicken from his plate. Just in case. Besides, their plates were already filled they shouldn't be needing much more.

Thea doesn't have to be told twice. It's not hard to snap lids on containers while watching the underbrush. Thankfully the children are tired enough to remain on that blanket, so they don't have to worry about corralling them at the moment. In fact, Marella yawns and simply keels over on her back looking at peace with her world, breathing a soft wordless song to herself from rosebud lips. Muir is fighting sleep, rubbing his eyes with a fist. Chucking the food into that shoulder bag while watchful glances dart from trees to twins to what she's doing, Thea catches D'had's reach for that chicken and gives the man a questioning look, but it is left unvoiced as she watches the forest over his shoulder.

D'had is still hungry, prowling feline or not. The food is there, he's going to eat while he keeps watch. Maybe not quite as vigorously as he might have if they were just eating and talking, but nonetheless. "When yer ready, I'll take them," a nod to the twins. That leaves her free to take the bag and she won't have to worry about trying to hang onto the toddlers.

Thea's eyes shift to D'had briefly, noting he's eating rather than throwing tidbits into the woods to feed hungry critters, so some of her confusion clears, but none of her apprehension does. Marella's song fades to silence, little lids flutter down as the girl drifts off. Muir jerks, having fallen asleep sitting up, then rolls back to lean against his daddy. Both tots are out. "But…" Thea continues to gather things, stuff them hurriedly into that bag while watching the edge of the clearing, "What will you do if it jumps at you, won't you need your hands free?" She keeps her voice low, under control, but there's no disguising the tremor of fear in it. The shadows have lengthened meanwhile, as the sun lowers. It is nearing dusk and will be dark long before they're back. Something she's only now noticing with a look to spot the position of the sun.

"Be nice," D'had replies, reaching over to pull Muir into his lap before he stands up with him. "But if," stress on the if there, "It does want yours free." One of them is going to be left with little in the way off free hands. He'd rather it be him. He's trying for calm, but there's still a certain level of uncertainty with the situation that lingers in his voice. "Hand her here?"

Thea is aghast. "Why-? How's that? If that thing jumps at me-" her eyes continue roaming the area even as she gathers Marella in her arms, but doesn't hand her over just yet. "How'm I gonna fight it off?" Her voice trembles just a bit and she swallows, "What if it jumps you? With them both in your arms…" She rises as well, wide eyes meet his as her arms tighten about the sleeping form she's holding. Marella calls out in her sleep, a high treble that carries on the still evening air, drawing a sharp snap of a stick unseen behind them on the forest. There's a decision to be made and she decides to trust him, offering her daughter over, her eyes never leaving his. "I didn't bring my crossbow." If that's what he's thinking.

D'had isn't really sure what he's thinking other than keeping them safe from whatever it might be out there that she though she saw. He shifts Muir to take Marella into his other arm. "We'll figure something out," he tries to sound more certain about that than he really is. Somehow though, somehow it will work out. "Let’s go for a walk." That's all they're doing. Going for a walk. There's nothing out there that might be watching them.

Thea watches the forest where that snapping twig sound came from while D'had gets Marella settled. She reaches to bundle that blanket into a ball, stuffs it into the bag and hefts it onto her shoulder then pauses uncertainly, reluctant to step into the darkening forest and that narrow trail with their precious cargo and no way to watch their backs. She lifts her head to eye the treetops and gauge the width of the clearing, doubt lacing her question, "Can Siebith fit-?" She leaves the rest of the question unfinished with a wince. It looks like a tight fit to her. Afar off in the forest there's a coughing snarl - a call: 'where are you?' Closer at hand, not far from the clearing but unseen in the underbrush an answering yowl replies: ‘here!’

D'had glances up before making a motion with a nod of his head towards the trail. Walk. "Not quite. And without straps…" It'd just be that much more difficult to get all four of them safely aboard and into the air.

Thea exhales slowly. There goes that hope. She turns towards the trail with that motion of his head. "No straps. Right." It's a very worried weyrwoman that walks before him down that trail, eyes watching as best she can in front, turning now and then to peer back behind them, since he's got both children hampering his movements. "We don't have felines in the North." Her voice falters, "I should have remembered-" She half-stumbles over a root crossing the trail while her head is turned to peer into the underbrush, flails for balance.

"Don't have 'em on ships either," D'had notes in an attempt to lighten the mood hanging in the air. A glance back over Muir's head and behind them best he can catch for that split second and he turns back just in time to see her stumble. With hands full of toddlers he's not able to steady her though. "Careful," he notes, reminding her of the obvious.

Thea steadies herself, manages to catch her balance and keep going. There are felines out there that want to eat her babies and maybe them as well, but she manages a half-smile for him; she knows what he's trying to do and appreciates it. Their legs are longer, their steps bigger and they're making much better time than they did on the way out with the twins setting the pace. Thankfully the twins are completely tuckered and sleep soundly with no fussing to draw the predators. Still it's a long, tense walk before they come to the outer edges of the Weyr and safety.

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