A Call for Help

Xanadu Weyr - Caverns
A massive cavern in it's own right, this one has been skillfully adapted for human habitation. The high ceilings have been painted a light, soft ivory, as are the walls where numerous tapestries hang to provide brilliant color and insulation from the stone. The floor has been left in its natural state, pale pink granite speckled through with glittering mica and dark flecks of basalt, leveled carefully but kept sufficiently rough to avoid slips.
The cavern itself is loosely divided into areas, each one set up to be suitable for some segment of the Weyr's population. The most frequently occupied area, however, is the one near the Kitchens where tables of varying sizes provide a place to sit down and eat or chat and a buffet of consumables is almost always kept stocked. Its plain that on most days, this area wouldn't accommodate anywhere near the full population of the Weyr and equally plain that on such occasions when a formal meal is laid out, tables are appropriated from all the other areas.
A big fireplace is set into the wall near the Kitchens as well, several comfortable chairs nearby providing haunts for elderly residents or riders who like a good view of all that happens. Rugs cover the floor in strategic spots, all of them abstract or geometric in design and most in the softly neutral colors of undyed wool.

Mid-afternoon on this early winter day sees the sky overhead clear, Rukbat shining, and the weather quite mild despite the change of season. The traders departed in the early morning, the three ships headed for the short day-long sail down the coastline to Black Rock, the shallow bottomed boats full of various goods taken on along their journey, as well as a hold full of special belongings sent all the way from Lemos. A good day for a sail, most certainly, and thus when a little gold firelizard burst into the Xanadu living caverns, banded in the bright colors of the Traders, and clutching a piece of ship's sail in her talons, it was a hurried response that went out, calling for anyone free to gather.

Ganked from a nice, quiet meal on her own, Rylavi sputters indignantly as one of the stable boys tugs her along in his wake. Only the words 'ship, Black Rock and trouble' cause her to fall silent and scramble to follow him under her own steam.

The past several days have been spent by Desri in fretting. The news out of Ista isn't terrible but it hasn't been good either, and she's been having trouble focusing on her volunteer duties. It was during an aimless wander through the caverns that she's grabbed to lend a hand, the urgency of the summons snapping the nanny out of her gloom. She ends up stumbling into line behind Rylavi, looking wide-eyed and startled. "Trouble always comes in threes," she observes in the tone of someone made superstitious by recent calamity. "What's going on?"

Amelia had just arrived in the cavern to take some food on the go back to the stables when the firelizard appeared and the call to gather began. Having helped with emergency responses among animals, she figures she could be of use and moves to join the gathering. Winding up nearby Desri and Rylavi, she works on her supper, sandwich still in hand and being eaten while she waits to find out who shall be leading the response.

Qu'ret is an old, greying rider with stubble on his chin and more laughter lines around his eyes than hairs on his head. The man's frame is tall and lean, with leathers that are worn, but well cared for. His green's straps are likewise in excellent condition, and well-used. He'd been on his way to take one of the computercrafters - that grumpyfaced Eledri - back to Landing from some job or other when they'd both been recruited to lend a hand, the crafter less enthusiastically than the rider. Desri hasn't been the only one fretting abotu the disasters elewhere in Pern, and Eledri's face is drawn as he stands around looking a little worried and more than a bit lost. "What's going on?" he echoes the question, and there's a nod for the others nearby, gaze pausing on Amelia briefly.

Once again displaying her appalling misunderstanding about weyr life, Pora just overheard some people saying that people were gathering, and assumed that it was for some sort of party. So, she arrives with a look of misplaced optimism on her face, ready for good times and celebration. When she realizes that the expressions on the faces of the others aren't really showing the party mood, she winds up confused. Spotting Desri among the crowd, she edges in that direction. "Uhm, hi there. What's up?" She asks.

Someone eventually manages to sooth the firelizard enough to coax her down from the where she hovers near the ceiling, snagging the piece of sail away from her and discovering that it says in blotchy writing simply 'Help'. It's at this point that Niva at least is showing up from the direction of her office, looking rather annoyed by the ruckus coming from the caverns and looking baffled at the gathering group of riders and nonriders alike until someone is quickly filling her in, and her gaze is slipping over the gathering group, taking a slow breath. A shake of her head and she's lifting her voice to carry over the murmur of voices, and to draw attention to herself. "Riders, take a nonrider, you'll need an extra set of eyes. Mount up, and follow the coast. They'd likely have been half way there, by now." She calculates quickly with a glance to the mounted timepiece showing the hour. "Keep your eyes open, and your head about you." The weyrwoman's directions echo, offering no further explanation or answers to teh questions, as unaware of the truth of the situation as anyone else. "Now!" She snaps as she pushes through the crowd, headed to the Tavern to gather the Weyrleader, even as she leaves the others to organize themselves and get airborne.

Amelia squeezes through the crowd to find her mother among the riders. Before Amie can ask, Kirilla grabs her hand, "Come on with me, Pheri's waiting outside." Shortly thereafter, mother and daughter are mounted up on Pheriannath and strapping in. The green waits patiently for another so she can follow rather than lead; she'll fly as gamely as the next green but she'd rather someone else do the leading in an emergency.

Glancing from Desri to Amelia and back to Niva, Rylavi's face pinches further with worry. Turning three full circles in the less-than-organized chaos, she finally spies the tail end of Amelia moving in one direction and follows. Probably out of habit formed over the past few days. She'll look up to Kirilla for permission before clumsily climbing on behind Amelia and nervously working to try and figure out just how these blasted straps work.

"I…don't know. Something about a ship? It's…" Desri falls silent when Niva begins calling out commands. The Istan stands with head tilted and arms wrapped snugly about herself, doing her best to chew right through her lower lip while she listens. What she hears does nothing to lessen the oppressive sense of /doom/ that causes her shoulders to sink. "Always in threes," she says to Pora with a sigh. But the order's been given and she can't creep away now. "Come on…" Without waiting for an answer, she ducks head and leading shoulder to worm through the crowd to the unattached riders. A bluerider is found, a mousy woman who nods to the nanny volunteering herself as partner. Moments later, she's being strapped in and doing her best not to look sick with nerves.

Eledri sticks close to Qu'ret - the greenrider is his ticket back to Landing, though the job they'd been doing with whatever techstuff is soon put on hold, the rider giving Nive a prompt nod and clamping a hand down on Eledri's shoulder. "You're coming with me," Qu'ret all but hauls the computercrafter off toward his green, Eled making an 'ack' sort of noise, but really, it's just convenience. "A ship?" that's as much as Eledri can get out before he's getting buckled to the green's straps, looking dubious, but nonetheless uncomplaining. Which is just as well, since Qu'ret doesn't appear to be in the listening mood today.

Pora seems to realize what is going on much too late. Her eyes go wide as she pieces it together between the weyrwoman's directions and Desri's leadership. "Wait, what? We're doing that? I thought they had, y'know, guards for that kind of thing. I've never flown, and besides, I…" She glances to the riders who are quickly assembling to fly. "… Well, I guess I have to try my best, don't I?" She relucantly approaches a brownrider who seems nonthreatening enough, meekly offering her help. "We're not going to have to fly too fast, are we? No crazy loops or turns?"

A grumbling G'ene is gathered from the Tavern, and while he and Isterreth take to the skies, Niva and Kilaueth are a tad slower in doing the same, the gold not yet fully egg-heavy, but certainly getting there with the passage of time since the flight, though the delay seems to work well for at least one person, as Nicca is joining the fray in turn, scurrying up Kilaueth's side and strapping herself in behind her mother without bothering to ask for permission, the 'journalist' eager for a first hand view. Even as her passengers are settled, the ember-tipped gold is tossing her head back with a loud trumpet, oversized wings are hurriedly pushing her skywards, and she's clearing the trees in the first downward stroke, before the second and third take the trio high enough for Kilaueth to bank towards the east, setting a quick pace as she follows the line of the coast, and the cliffs that border it, another loud trumpet urging the stragglers onwards, leaving her current mate to encourage them from behind if necessary.

Amelia twists around in her straps to work Rylavi into place. "Mother, this is Rylavi. This is Kirilla, my mom and one of the assistant weyrlingmasters. And we're on Pheriannath." The green gives a little snort, impatient to take off and work out the response. Kirilla answers belatedly with a "Hello" to Rylavi, but she's facing forward and her expression is just the sort of out of focus look that shows she's in conversation with her dragon. Shortly after the weyrleaders take off, Pheriannath is up in the air, taking her three passengers quite high, the swift rise curving as the small green follows Kilaueth's lead.

Rylavi sits in a mockery of patience as Amelia fastens her straps, hands shaking with fear of the unknown - both of flying and of what she may find as they draw closer to her former home. She manages a single nod in response to Kirilla's greeting, but can't quite speak around her clenched jaw. She's almost, but not quite prepared for the take-off. The sudden thrust jerks her back against her leather restraints and she makes a very undignified sound. Her fingers seek purchase on the back of Amelia's shirt, even as her pale face turns a very interesting shade of green.

Introductions would be the polite thing to do, but when Desri's bluerider introduces herself as Calyn and Chupath, the nanny is capable only of mustering a numb nod. Her silence is broken when the blue throws his wings wide and vaults skyward; a squeak escapes the Istan, the sound all but lost in the creak and whoosh of so many wings beating at the air. She's had the benefit of flying before, at least. It's where they're flying that has Desri apprehensive, and leaves her pale, squinting into the artificial wind created by Chupath angling a wingtip to fall in with the others arrayed to follow Kilaueth's lead.

Eledri is secured in the straps, and Qu'ret wastes no time in getting himself secure while his green, Mzith, warbles softly, and peers all about. The computercrafter is silent, looking grumpy, and vaguely worried, while the rider just looks frowny. No happy faces here, alas. Qu'ret and Mzith wait until Kilaueth is airborne before the green pushes off to follow, turning east on a wingtip and flapping to keep pace with the others, the aged green's faceted eyes whirling with her own worried yellow flecks.

Pora seems too nervous for introductions. She's blabbing pretty much the whole time she's getting strapped into the dragon's straps, her wide eyes betraying her absolute horror at the prospect of flying. "So, I mean, this is safe, right? I mean people do this all the… waaah!" That terrified squeal accompanies liftoff, at which point she's holding on for dear life. Clearly she'll be very useful.

Black Rock Hold - Coastline
The curve of the coastline that stretches between Xanadu and Black Rock is rather nondescript, dotted with little islets and stretches of sandy beach, while the majority of the coastline is framed by cliffs of various heights. The water is calm, and in the distance, the distinctive pillars of the Sea of Azov are just barely visible even in clear weather.

When in a rush, by dragon wings is faster than when one must rely on the winds, particularly when one can fly rather directly rather than having to follow the lines of the coast and be aware of any possible underwater obstructions. Even then, it is not a short flight, despite the quick pace set by Kilaueth, and its nearing the hour mark when the makeshift wing of dragons is finally reaching the narrowed connection of Caspian Lake to the Sea of Azov, from where the traders would have turned away from the shore and cut across to their winter moorings. It is however, also where the first signs of something being wrong would be noticed for those with their eyes set to line of the cliffs on the horizon. A shout from Nicca, and the young woman is lifting a hand, pointing to the distance even as she leans around her mother to get a better view, Niva settling for squinting at something unseen.

Pheriannath keeps up with the front lines of the blues and greens- she's not still a teaching dragon for nothing. When word of sighting is passed through the dragons, Kirilla motions for Amelia and Rylavi to start looking in the same direction. Pheriannath banks downwards towards the ships and Amelia leans far to the side, one hand shading her eyes as she peers toward the oddly angled sails.

Through slitted, watering eyes, Desri peers ahead over Calyn's shoulder. An hour spent without riding leathers makes for an uncomfortable flight for someone accustomed to more temperate climes but still she tries to serve her purpose. When the smudge of smoke is seen in the distance, she taps the rider's elbow but the gesture comes slower than thought between dragons. Chupath is already banking, giving a fretful rumble. Though every instinct in her screams against it, Desri grips the straps and leans out to get a better look once the blue has leveled out again.

Pora doesn't get much more useful once they're up in the air. She's gripping the straps and dragon as tightly as she can manage, an absolutely terrified look in her eye. Every so often she musters up the courage to peek down at the ground below, but each time she just squeaks in fright and returns to clinging.

Calmer now that she's had an hour to grow accustomed to the off-balance experience that is flying, Rylavi still doesn't feel brave enough to lean out like Amelia does, like Desri does. Perhaps it's the straps she has no faith in, or the green herself - after all, what reason would the green matron have to save her if she fell - but whatever the reason, the tiny, skin-and-bones apprentice chooses instead to crane her neck and look over Amelia's dropped shoulder. Leaning a bit closer so she can talk right into her instructor's ear, Rylavi bites down on a shiver and swallows twice. "I don't recognize those sails. They're not the usual set that carry trade and supplies around to the Hold. D'you know what they're doing here?"

Eledri glances over his shoulder, blinking as he hears somebody squeal, and perhaps giving Pora a vaguely sympathetic look before turning back around. He hangs on tightly as Mzith flies, shoulders tense. The holdbred crafter is no more used to this sort of thing than he was a few turns ago, when he first arrived in Xanadu. While the green manages to keep pace, she does drop back after the first half hour, trailing somewhat. Eledri looks a bit less apprehensive by the time something catches his eye. Leaning forward along with the others, his brow furrows as he taps Qu'ret's shoulder, the crafter adjusting spectacles.

The distant horizon quickly becomes what the wing is flying over, and as the distance closes, the scene before them quickly becomes evident. One of the three ships has been run around despite its shallow hull, while the second's main mast has been broken, dropping the sails to the decks below, and with it the fire that had been caught in the rigging. The third ship, the ship that while in port at Xanadu never seemed to be truly docked, is missing all together, though a trail of barrels floating in the deeper waters of the channel may lead the way, or show where it happened to meet its own demise. The coastline in the area is rough, with high cliffs framing much of the water line, though slightly down shore, a vegetation filled stretch of land can be seen, meeting the water and seemingly providing a way away from the edge. As the scene comes quickly into view, Kilaueth is dipping her wings, dropping altitude in a fluid motion, sweeping in over the ruined vehicles, both Weyrwoman and daughter leaning over to peer at the ships, murmuring amongst themselves, even as Kilaueth is banking for a second look.

"I wouldn't know," Amelia answers the apprentice gripping her shirt. "Guess we'll find out soon enough, though," she adds while Kirilla directs Pheriannath to dip lower. As they circle round the way, the green dips lower and lower, flying in a wide loop to come back round so they can have a closer look. Amie stares towards the jagged cliffs, and staring at the cliffs draws her line of sight upwards. "Smoke… lots of smoke." Kirilla mumbles. "Best find out how the 'leaders want us to split this up," the greenrider tells her dragon and waits for word from the top.

Chupath swells with a breath soon lost in a hiss; he has decided that the fire is certainly of no natural origin and worry transitions into a pulse of anger that leaves the blue's eyes spinning in agitation. Where the gold angles down towards the wrecks, he twists to fly the line of the cliffs over fires burning there. There is no hesitation or waiting for the others, he's busy scanning the area for signs of life. Desri, lacking the benefit of mental communication, swivels at the waist to watch the other dragons who are falling behind. Her confusion is vented when she taps Calyn on the shoulder. The rider's only response is a shout of, "Keep an eye out!" to which the nanny plaintively responds, "I /am/!" Except for right then. Oh, and then too. But /now/ she's looking.

The hour's journey through biting winds and even a little excitement has stirred up a bit of color in Rylavi's normally pale cheeks. The sight of smoke drains it all away again. Frightened and reduced to a much younger mindset in her fear, the young teen leans forward to try desperately for Kirilla's attention. "How far does it go in?" There's rising panic in her tone. "The smoke! Has it hit the fields? Can you see anyone yet?"

Pora is even more panicked when she hears the words 'smoke' and 'fields' being yelled over the sound of rushing wind. She gathers all her mental fortitude to lean over and peer down at the scene beneath the dragon, eyes going very wide in terror. "Oh, no…" She says, very unhelpfully.

"Faranth…wonder what happened?" Eledri leans trying to see, while Qu'ret just mutters something under his breath and Mzith dips lower, slowing so her passengers can see the scene below. Qu'ret leans forward, looking right and left, his brow creasing at the sight of ther ships - or what's left of them. he echoes Eledri's, "Faranth.." and then just shakes his head, reduced to silence as they scan the coast.

The lava-hued tones of Kilaueth's mental touch slowly filters back through the gathered dragons, directions passed from one to the next, the gold waiting for a touch of understanding from each in turn. Search, the directions are simply, search for signs - signs of anything. The gold's turning again, dropping low to sweep over the sail-covered deck of the second ship, giving her riders a clear view of the open hatch to the hold, and the blatant lack of anything contained there. A pumped fist and the gold is slowly rising, turning to maintain a steady location as she and her rider watch the others' progress, while Nicca settles for grumping, stuck as she is out of the immediate search.

Pheriannath takes her passengers upward and toward the clifftop. Kirilla glances back to the girl behind her daughter. "Don't panic, girl. We'll go find out." As they rise over the cliff's edge, Amelia lets out a little gasp. Her normal level-headedness in emergencies wavers when she sees fire, but as Pheriannath brings them closer, her expression turns quizzical. "Signal fires? What in Faranth's name…?" Amelia frowns, brows furrowing as they come close enough to make out wagon tracks through the billows of smoke. Kirilla's expression mirrors her daughter's, though her eyes are out of focus as she converses with Pheriannath, the green passing on what they've seen and seeking directions: land and investigate or follow the tracks inland?

No words from Chupath but the confirming images flow freely from his mind to the others that follow, and to Kilaueth herself: the smoldering signal fires, the churned earth broken by wagon wheels leading away from the cliff, the ground obscured by the silver smoke. The air is thick with it too, and soon both Calyn and Desri have hands plastered over their noses and mouths to try to keep the worst of it out. The nanny has a tougher go of it than the rider; when she begins to cough, deep and ragged, the blue wings reluctantly higher to get out of the haze. He tilts and goes into a wide circle, awaiting further orders.

Don't Panic. Very, very good advice, actually. It's just that Rylavi has passed the stage where she can do anything about the panic bubbling against her throat. Her hands are shaking as they continue to grip the back of Amelia's shirt - something the older girl can most likely feel. "Those are wagon tracks!" Rylavi: stating the obvious. She lets go with one hand to point down at them. "They're leading inland." Towards her home; towards her family. "Please, we have to follow them inland." Nevermind the crisis here. Of course Rylavi's home and family are much more important than whoever or whatever could be left here. At least, that's the way the youngster sees things.

As the images filter back to Kilaueth, the gold wings higher, settling into a more appropriate height for monitoring a quick sweep, hovering carefully as licks of lava touch the minds of the searchers. « Follow. » Again, simple directions leave no room for ambiguity, and she shifts, turning to peer out across the channel, eyes whirling slowly. Niva's eyes are sweeping the area as well, turned to look in the direction of her dragon, while Miss Contrary Nicca is swivled the other way, lifting a hand to scan the coastline, obscured though it is by the smoke.

Pheriannath is already curving her flight to follow the wagon tracks as Rylavi points and Kilaueth directs. "Please calm down, lass," Kirilla tosses back though it's almost lost on the wind. Amelia catches part of the phrase, though, and twists around again, detangling her shirt from the remaining hand gripping it. The journeywoman's gaze follows the tracks for a moment, then she grabs Rylavi's upper arm to get her attention. "That's where we're going, please calm down. Whatever's going on, we as the response team have got to be cool and collected. If there are people hurt, us panicking won't help their state of mind. So please, just calm down." During the speech, Pheriannath is flying lower and lower, and when the vegetation becomes thick, the green hovers for a few minutes, Kirilla calls for her daughter's opinion on the muddied tracks. "Wide wheels… lots of beasts. Heavy load," Amelia speculates, and Pheriannath passes on the new information.

Mzith dutifully follows the directions, winging her way along while her passengers lean a little to scan the coast and the waters. The green dips lower, although she keeps well clear of the smoke. Eledri and Qu'ret are both looking equally grim, the computercrafter for once having ceased his usual half-frowny for a more serious, concerned expression. There's another tap to the greenrider's shoulder as the computercrafter adjusts his glasses, with a bit of murmuring between the two and some nodding while Mzith angles this way and that.

From on high, Chupath's path alters to follow the smaller greens. Desri's coughing has gentled but only just; the occasional harsh outburst might still be heard by those below. Calyn is made of sturdier stuff, at least. While her passenger struggles to keep her airway open and clear, the rider continues to scan the ground so far below. When the tracks prove to lead into thicker vegetation, a quick conference with her lifemate ends with Chupath sending a query back towards the queen directing the action: follow what is sure to be a slow and lumbering train on foot? The question may or may not be phrased in the image of a sudden and thrillingly vengeful ambush. There are clubs involved.

Afraid and immature, Rylavi really doesn't appreciate being told to 'calm down' - even though it's for her own good. Jerking her arm away, she opens her mouth to really let Amelia have it, but in the end, snaps it shut again. She'll have to fume in silence and nurse her fear alone, for she does not have the courage to face the punishment that would surely follow the words she desperately wants to say. She sits back, clinging to the straps around her until her knuckles turn white, eerie yellow-green gaze fixed on the ground; she searches for familiar faces, both human and animal, conveniently forgetting that this was Amelia's home, too.

The watchful eyes of one brownrider catch a bit of movement - movement that is quickly proving to be at least a handful of felines along the edge of the jungle, the lanky beasts snarling even as the dragons linger overhead, and as the various messages filter back to Kilaueth, the gold and her rider are piecing togther the options, the reports, before she's trumpeting, and directions are once again being passed out. While a trio of dragons are tagged to remain and keep watching, the others are given various orders of retreat, with blurry directions of fetching Hunters, trackers, and Seacrafters alike to return, and let each deal with their own specialty. Niva shifts in her straps, bracing herself to stand up a bit more, hand still lifted to shield her eyes as she watches the wing, waiting for the acknowledgement of each pair and their passengers, even as the look of concern lingers over what could have befallen the Traders.

"Must we go on home?" Amelia's tone has a touch of whine to it when her mother announces they're going home to fetch experts. Amie would rather stick around; she may not have a lot of experience with the wild cats, but she's studied them in books and tracked other beasts. So it's dangerous, pssh, animals don't scare Amie. No matter, because Pheriannath is winging up higher already and turning round. Kirilla twists round to peer at her two passengers. "How warmly dressed are the two of you? 'Spose you could handle *Between*?"

Mzith moves higher into the sky, sending back acknowledgement to the gold before the green is turning back toward Xanadu. Eledri's face is a worried frown, while Qu'ret's not bothering to speak tel the computercrafter they're heading back - that much is obvious by the green's direction. Though after a moment there are a few more quiet words exchanged, and Mzith wings even higher before comign to hover. A pause in the air, and then she and her passengers blip between, back to the weyr, to fetch experts, and probably get Eledri back to Landing at some point.

Desri is finally able to draw a full breath without her lungs ending in spasms. The first one she takes is spent in a thanks to the bluerider, though it may well go unheard. Chupath is no happier to give up the search than many of the others and much of Calyn's attention is taken by keeping his mutterings to non-public channels. His assent finally comes, winging back to Kilaueth only moments before the blue himself reappears to take up a position in the air above the wrecked boats. One woman and then the other lifts her hand to acknowledge those astride the gold. Seconds later, the air they'd occupied is empty; they're returning to Xanadu via the quickest route. One chilled nanny, coming up.

Sputtering and stringing one incoherent sentence after the other together to try and construct an adequate protest, Rylavi doesn't manage either to answer the posed question or to make her point for staying. In the end, she gives up and merely sits in sullen silence.

With a salute to the three riders left behind, Kilaueth is waiting until the rest of the wing has turned towards Xanadu either by conventional means or means of *between* before the gold is turning as well, this time moving to cross the channel herself - setting off for the far shore and the Hold there, if nothing else to bear the bad news.

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