Cold Stone Hold - Mountain Prairie

Beyond the shielding barrier that is the Hold and her mountain, the sloping grass prairie has been allowed to flourish with little interruption. The occasional, wandering group of camelids dot the landscape, ducking in and out of visibility behind low-growing trees and prairie bushes. The vegetation grows in haphazard groups as the beasts of the field groom it in their own, private way, and some patches are thick and taller than the average man's thigh. Under the lash of the sun, the area smells strongly of warm earth and baking grass, the occasional bite of mountain life wafting in from further up the pass.

To the south and around the spine of the mountain, Cold Stone Hold is clearly visible, its stones warming in the light of the sun whenever possible. To the north, the prairie finds itself penned in by an impressive strip of prime-evil forest, its leaves a vivid, emerald beacon in the daylight.

Somewhere above, a mountain bird's fierce, lonely cry drifts upon the wind, the solitary anthem of this place and her people.

A raw wind blows across the sharp peaks of the mountains that scrape the underbelly of low-hanging iron-gray clouds. It is cold; it is not freezing, for late spring has come to the mountains of Cold Stone Hold. There are few level pastures in this place - most climb the sides of the tumbled mountains but the camilids that graze in them do not mind. The grass that grows so lushly here is but a dead brown carpet with the green fuzz of new growth barely beginning to pierce it. This pasture straddles a high ridge overlooking the hold proper, with a dirt track wending up the ascending ridge to the peak above. It is where the shoulder forms a level spot that the pile of drywood is piled, a frame holding an oblong box and within that is Cold Stone Hold's Thadan, master no more. Beyond the bier on that same ridge, the space has been reserved for the landing of two dragons, though Seryth suns herself in the space beyond the courtyard far below.

Gathering nearby, and yet making their way up the ridge are Cold Stone Hold's residents, and a few visitors from neighboring holds - Holders willing or able to take the time to be here, most for Rensea or Tharen but not for Thadan. Thadan did not lend himself to alliances or friendship. The sky is devoid of dragons, for Thadan did long ago estrange himself from the Weyr he was beholden to. The Steward of High Reaches Hold is there, conveyed by the Weyrsecond from the High Reaches Weyr. Rensea stands between Tharen and Thea, all silent as they await the lighting of fires. There is nothing left to to say of or to the man honored today for this is mostly for Rensea and if it were not for her, no one would likely be here.

Above, a dark shadow swoops down, wings fanning as the black brown settles onto his assigned spot on the ridge. Neck arched, the proud dragon eyes the brier with a soft rumble of asknowledgement of his rider's kin, and then swings his head around to nuzzle the figure mounted upon his neck. Crouching, he lets Mur'dah dismount, the young brownrider's goggles pushed up and pulled off, helmet also stashed into straps as he pulls off the bags of firestone and sets them down. Peering across the brier towards his family, he offers them a smart salute - more rider than grandson at the moment, but he will join them once his task has been performed.

Tharen is not a rider, but he gives a formal and grave tip of his head acknowledging Mur'dah's salute. As Cold Stone's new Holder, he is in charge and in his honest style has declined the harpers speech. Yet he will see to it that the last rites, as is custom to these mountains, is given to the man who gave him life, sent him to the crafthall and at the very end trained him to take hold in his stead. He is stoic, almost grim but the arm about his mother is tender as is the kiss he leaves to her damp cheek and crosses the space to stand straight and tall beaide Mur'dah. He will remain here until the embers flicker out though that will be hours from now.

Returning that salute is Thea ( and Marel, for she is here too somewhere). She is dry-eyed as she stands beside her mother and daughter her affection for both of them holds her here physically; her thoughts wander to yesterday. In her minds eye she sees a herd of camilids flow over the rough ground of this very pasture, a living wave of movement as they stampede. The high-pitched cry of young Tharen as he went down under them, calling for her. A scared and shaken but unbruised little boy of seven turns hauled out of a dip they all jumped, avoiding him as they took off through a gate purposely left open. They chased those escaped animals for three days, high adventure for a pair of seven and nine turn old siblings. A muted smile flickers and dies. She won't think about what happened when they got home. Beside her Rensea weeps soundlessly. She loved Thadan, made it work by giving his 0% 110%.

Mur'dah straightens his posture when his uncle comes to stand beside him, turning his head slightly to wait for the signal. His own gaze then briefly sweeps this field to the cothold beyond, the cothold he thought he would be holding, the cothold he never really wanted.

Tharen nods but the once to Mur'dah. It is the signal. the people are gathered. Every one of them from Cold Stone Hold are here; most, again, for Rensea and now Tharen, who is still working very hard to gain their trust. These people served a stern and joyless taskmaster who was as hard on them as he was on his own children. They obeyed or were expelled and over the turns they've become a suspicious and fearful lot. They are huddled as far away from the dragons as is respectable, off behind Rensea.

As Thea's arm curls around her mother's shoulders to take the place of Tharen's she is surprised to find them so frail beneath the greatcoat she wears. When did her mother age so? As her eyes watch Mur'dah and Tharen memories run through her mind of the energetic and upbeat woman working to undo the harm Thadan did to the people, taking young Thea with her on errands of delivery - cloth, bread, cookies for the little ones - assisting the midwife. Rensea used any excuse she could under the guise of work to encourage the people and to be social, friendly with them. Thea learned much about running a Weyr from her, owes her so much!

Mur'dah nods back at his uncle and mounts once more, because he feels like this is something he should be mounted for. Feeding Kalsuoth another piece of firestone, he gets the brown's insides churning again until he gives a small burp and then sides squeeze and he sends out a tongue of flame to lick side to side along the pyre. Back and forth he goes with short pauses for breath, requesting more firestone before he sets to it again. No performance anxiety here, the dark brown gives fevered light to the task of setting his rider's grandfather ablaze.

Tharen stands tall off to one side, and upwind of the great gout of flame. He's close but show nary a cringe or a twitch, the flicker of light dancing across his face as the wind sweeps through his hair sending it whipping about his forehead and carrying most of the heat off away and over the side of the ridge. His eyes narrow as the flames sweep his sire's coffin. The hold is his - a hold he never thought he wanted, a place he fled from, leaving the herd he was delivering to a hold several ranges over with the underling helping. That they got to their destination safely was no thanks to his desertion to go find Thea at Xanadu and Thadan had been embittered.

Thea's arm curls more snugly around her mother, half supporting the woman as they stand. Rensea is proud, her head held high but the moisture tracking her papery cheeks won't stop. The widow watches the flames for but a moment, her gaze drifts to her son and then her grandson upon his fine beast. So proud of both of them! Thea's eyes follow hers to the bier. Nothing. Not one emotion stirs her as she watches the flames destroy the remains. It could be a stranger… She looks away, to Tharen first. An ache - how she misses him! But he's grown up and into this. To Mur'dah astride Kalsuoth and her heart swells with the same pride as Rensea's does before her gaze drops to the hold far below, where the orderly and pristine barns, situated outside of the hold walls stand. Inside, the walls are painted white, save for a little splatter of blue stain from a bubblypie she'd once snuck to Tharen after Thadan backhanded him and knocked his teeth out. Is it still behind the chest of tools they'd dragged to hide it? Nevermind that it was inside a stall and the placement would draw attention! She should check!

Kalsuoth bellows flame until the brier catches, and then the brown snaps his mouth shut and stands solid and proud, neck arched, holding his ash for the moment. Together, the pair watch, Mur'dah feeling little emotion as well - curiously hollow, though he never did like the man. Loathed him, in fact, and only treated him nicely to preserve his hide and his sister's. He's glad he's gone. Glad he and Kalsuoth could send him on his way, the young rider seeing a different sort of symbolism in the belching of flame./

Like thread, Thadan's passing from this world is inglorious. For Rensea it is helpful closure. As the flames roar and eat the wood, the wind howls over the ridge and carries away the smoke to dissipate amongst the barren rocky peaks. One leaves behind naught but the memories in the minds of his progeny, a sobering thought. The weather is sharp, the chill bites though even the best of camilid wool and the people do not linger beyond the time it takes for those flames to start dwindling and the bier to cave in. Thea, with her arm still about her mother, leads Rensea down the lane and into the shelter of the hold to await Tharen and Mur'dah. Marel may remain or walk with them. Tharen remains, with Mur'dah if he stays, as the pile of glowing coals continue to do their work. He will be there until they flicker and die.

Mur'dah dismounts when others start to leave, but he remains. Kalsuoth though steps back and takes to wing, the gusts from his wings stirring the flames as he soars to a remote spot to belch up his ash. Mur'dah shoves his hands into his pockets and stand solid beside Thadan, waiting. It seems appropriate, the once-heir standing beside his uncle.

To be left alone with thoughts about this man might seem uncomfortable and yet Tharen isn't overly troubled. He is thankful for Mur'dah's company, however. He reaches a hand to Mur'dah's shoulder, offers a firm squeeze. "Thank you," he says quietly heartfelt. "Will you also tell Kalsuoth for me?" The crackling of small, hot flames, barely heard over the wind fills the silence before Tharen speaks once more. "The young are due any day; the herds are swelling in number and ought to bring a good price at the spring gathers. The winter was deep and made for extra thick wool on the camilids. I'm getting married." All that matter-of-factly said, even the last bit, like he's recounting the weather or something.

Mur'dah nods his head as he listens to his uncle, knowing that those words should mean something. Doesn't - won't - he have part of those profits, if he signs that paper that is still back at home in his chest in his weyr. "Of course," he says to both, eyes unfocusing briefly. "We were happy to help." More than happy. Then the last news has him turning his head in surprise. "Congratulations."

Tharen is watching Mur'dah out of the corner of his eyes. "Thanks. I… met her while I lived at Xanadu Weyr. I'll provide the next batch of heirs so you won't have to?" He chuckles, then sobers, turns his head towards Mur'dah and tells him quietly, "Thadan was the one who decided to divide the hold profits. I agreed."

Mur'dah snorts reflexively, and then he coughs and blushes. "Thanks," he mumbles. No, he hadn't considered that. Then the young man is surprised, staring wide eyed at his uncle. "He did?"

Tharen laughs at Mur'dah's snort, drops his hand from his nephew's shoulder and then punches him lightly on the upper arm. He doesn't mention the girl's name but it's irrelevant at this point in time. They'll meet her long before the wedding; she still lives in Xanadu, after all. Of Thadan, he nods. "The old buzzard wrote up the outline of his dividends and projected output for each of you, showed it to me and said I could negate it and I said no, it would work out fine. Cold Stone Hold is profitable and we're remaining a small holding. So… yeah. He wouldn't talk about why though." He smirks, "And don't think I didn't try to weasel it out of him."

Mur'dah frowns, shaking his head and rubbing a hand over his face. "Huh," is all he ends up saying, a low grunt that's more masculine than his turns. Gears turn in his head as he tries to work out motivations, but in the end he fails and just shrugs. "Well, that's that."

Perhaps that's what Thadan wanted in the end; to be an enigma. Tharen joins Mur'dah in the shrugging. He couldn't figure it out either. "Yeah." That is indeed that. Except, "Did you sign yours? I know your mother hasn't, but she's thinking about it." He eyes the dying coals, lifts his eyes to the leaden skies. "It's not going to rain", he decides. "It is getting dark."

Mur'dah shakes his head. "I haven't yet. I think I will though. I can't come up with a reason not to, other than…I'm doing nothing /for/ it. Doesn't quite seem right…"

"You got nothing for the time you spent here; he's caused your family plenty of misery." Tharen points out with a shrug. Then he adds, "If you want to do something for it, you can help transport the sheared wool from Cold Stone Hold to market. "Thadan never would use dragon transport and these mountain roads are hell for carting on. We're starting a herd down in the hills above Xanadu, too." So in all his 'spare time' he can get involved in… herding? Is his uncle serious? He's smiling, but yeah, he means it. No pressure though.

Mur'dah nods, swift and almost eager. "Of course I will, just let me know time and place and we'll be here." He can /do/ something to earn his marks. That sits better with him. "In Xanadu? Hmm. I could help with that too. Was thinking of buying a cothold and renting it out, or something along those lines…"

Tharen is pleased. He reaches a large hand for Mur'dah to take and if he does it'll be shaken with a strong grip. "I'll do better than that. I'll give you the projected shearing schedule and the names of the holds where the spring market gathers will be held along with the contact names." He's a businessman, always was and never really knew it until he ended those aimless turns of being lazy and pretending to work in the barns at Xanadu. "Mmhm," he says, "Up beyond the forest where the plains foothills turn steeper before the mountain forests. Pretty country, great view. I could really use someone responsible to oversee that. They will belong to Xanadu Weyr with partial profits to Cold Stone Hold."

Mur'dah nods slightly, returning the hand shake. "Sounds like something I could do, I think," he says, though there is some hesitation there. He wasn't that good at his heir lessons, for all that he tried. "If you teach me."

"It would be my pleasure," Tharen smiles. Yeah, he sucked at those heir lessons the first time around. He was the same age Muir had been for his. He actually sucked worse - he ran away from them! And for the next little while he outlines the basics, which will be mostly hands-on - building of a shepherd's cot (he's done that, sort of? while restoring his weyr), installing fences, transporting the stock. But he'll be in contact, which means they'll visit back and forth. The hiring of beastcrafters will likely fall under the Steward of Xanadu, but he can recommend people. The darkness descends as the coals burn down and finally sputter out sending a final spray of sparks into the raw, frigid winds. It has grown colder during that time and Tharen turns to look down at the warmth and comfort of the hold far below. "He's gone. Lets go." And he will walk with Mur'dah carefully down the steep, rough lane, giving him his version of the account with the stampeding camilids, which differs significantly than Thea's. It was her fault you know!

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