Nice Catch!

High Reaches Weyr - Mountain Slope

A branching of the road to High Reaches leads into the mountains, ending at a steep slope that lies beneath several feet of snow through the Reaches winters. The snow and ice cling to the mountain's face percariously, mounds of white that look as though they might lose their hold at any moment. The trees here are bent and twisted by the wind, where they have managed to cling to the rock. Above, the mountain's peak is white even at mid-summer. Past the road on down the slope, the footing looks treacherous and the grade is far to high for any but a very brave hiker to attempt. The road continues to meander on to the small holds many hours' travel beyond, while a broader though rocky road curls around the mountain and disappears into the wilderness.

It is winter in the mountainous areas above the High Reaches Weyr. There's ice and deep snow and bone-chilling cold but Rukbat shines down from a deeply azure sky without a cloud in sight. It sets the snow blazing white with that shimmer of myriad diamonds. Ice glitters on the tree branches, fir trees are bent over in heavy coats of white. There should be a campsite somewhere along this road. Look for a cluster of wagons. Maybe not. There's LOTS of snow. Maybe they're buried. It's winter. And did I mention it's cold? At least it's a beautiful day?

"I hate this weather," Mur'dah mutters to his dragon as the brown skims over the trees and snow. Eyes partly lidded against the glare, Kalsuoth at least doesn't seem to mind, but Mur'dah is bundled up and /still/ cold. And fidgeting. Nervous. The brownrider is /nervous/. He sucked at his diplomacy lessons, except for the formal dinner and dancing. How is he going to do this? He grits his teeth. If his uncle thought he could, then he can. But…maybe his uncle made a stupid mistake. Still, he has no choice but to press on. Breathing in deeply through his face mask, he directs Kalsuoth along the invisible road, marked only by the way it gaps through the trees, and searches for that campsite.

There are… mounds. With dugout openings in them. In a circle. With firepits. Maybe that is the one? It's not really on the road, on the road and there's no place to land in the clearing unless he wants Kalsuoth to sink shoulder deep in snow. The road is close. He could land and hike in the 500 yards maybe?

Kalsuoth's keen vision sees the mounds and he circles once before he glides a short distance away - about 200 yards. Sinking into the snow, the brown rumbles in surprise and Mur'dah laughs. "Got to walk it," he says, thumping his dragon on the shoulder. "Break trail, c'mon." With a snort, the brown starts to do just that while Mur'dah shades his eyes and peers ahead. "Any animals, you stop. We need to be nice. Not threatening."

There's a yodel. It comes from behind the trees and beyond the ridge above them. SKIIISSSSSSZZZZ! That's the sound of something swishing across the snow and right towards them. Oh! Does Kaluoth know that he's wading across some peculiar tracks running downslope? No? "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" There's a girl rocketing towards them. She's standing on a highly-polished length of wood that's curled at the front end, holding a rope whereby she both maintains her balance and guides the craft. But she cannot guide it around the sudden and unexpected obstacle. And so she does the only thing she knows how to do when death at high speed is immanent. She jumps. The now-weightless craft shoots up into the sky, catches the wind. It sails over the dragonpair. The girl is not so lucky. She's headed for them. Though the air, arms flailing. Look ma, no wings!

Mur'dah yells and Kalsuoth rumbles in alarm, and the only thing in Mur'dah's head is '/this/ is going /well/'. Kalsuoth though is a bit more focused and a bit quicker to think of a solution. Rearing back, the brown fans his wings to steady himself and turns, offering her his relatively soft spot between his chest and shoulder. And he leans as well, trying to catch her and /fall/ back, attempting to cradle her in his arms and just tumble. And twist, so his rider doesn't get crushed either.

She's going to hit… The girl flails, wobbles, but her trajectory remains constant. Yep, she's going to hit the obstacle. And so at the last minute she ducks her head, executes a half-roll and tucks, striking that soft spot of the dragon's chest-shoulder with the small of her back rather than head on. The big brown dragon manages to catch her balled-up form - splat! - as they go down - WHUMPF! in a cloud of snow. Silence. More silence. Even MORE silence. Then a long, ragged gasp for air. Followed by yet more silence.

Mur'dah frantically tugs at his buckles, unhooking himself as he lays sideways in the snow. Kalsuoth does not move, does not budge an inch because he's afraid if he does he'll hurt someone - either his rider on his back or the woman against his front. Freed from the straps, Mur'dah falls a few feet into the drift, hitting with a whump. Then he has to claw his way around his dragon, through the deep, deep snow, using Kalsuoth's hide to pull on (sorry, buddy) until he's scrambling up onto his dragon's foreleg. "Shardsshardsshards," he's muttering under his breath, searching for her. "Is she breathing? Is she dead?" he asks his dragon, panic edging into his voice. If she's dead he's going to /lose/ it.

There's a nice coating of snow all over everything thanks to that sideways sprawl and the powder is- was- perfect. Well it still is except underneath where that big brown dragon lies. Anyway, cradled in the brown's forearms and covered in snow caramel strands of hair can be seen, a bit of brightly-colored fabric but no movement. There is however, another wheezing gasp for air. This is a hopeful sign that the girl is not dead? Yet!

Mur'dah continues to swear as he moves to her side, reaching down to try and press his fingers against her neck, checking for a pulse.

A third lung full of air occurs while the young man checks for a pulse, which seems to be beating juuuuust fine, if a little too fast. Then the snow explodes as the girl uncurls from her balled-up position, sits up with her hair in total disarray and yells at the same time. "WOOOOOHOOOO! Let's do that again!" Is she crazy? Or just rattled? Blame it on adrenalin? Big brown eyes seem to focus better, blink at the boy (not the dragon, go figure) in a somewhat dazed fashion. Hello, she'll smile in a minute. Right now she's still rattled, "Where'd you come from?" Her accent is of the High Reaches.

Mur'dah jumps and almost pees himself when she comes back to life in such a spectacular fashion. "Are you insane?!" he cries, his expression relief and shock mixed into one bundle of nerve package. "I-" he begins when she asks him such a /logical/ question. "Um. X…anadu?" It's his own question, as if he's not sure where he's from.

That smile will have to wait for the girl is reacting to the young man's jump with a jerk of surprise herself. Maybe she expected him to have nerves of steel? Or… she just hasn't thought…yet. She regards him seriously at his yelped question. "I…don't…think…so? No one has ever told me I was anyway?" She shifts and only then notices where she is, cradled (gasp - CLUTCHED) in a dragon's arms. "Yawp!" She scramble-pounces the young man and clings, arms around his neck. It's possible that the momentum will dislodge both of them from that precarious perch and land them in the snow. What was it you were saying about the cold?

Mur'dah yelps and he does indeed fall, landing in the snow with a Mur'dah-shaped imprint, several feet down. "Shards, girl!" he swears with a grunt. "You…what…calm /down/. You're not afraid of dragons are you?"

The girl goes too, of course because, yep, still hanging onto him. FOOOMP! Another smaller cloud of snow rises. She disentangles herself from him enough to sit up. Though she's sitting on him. Does she think to get off? Nope! She's still rattled? She pauses in brushing her shoulder-length hair from her face, to eye the brown behind them before turning back to the boy. "Should I be? I've uh, never met one before. Also," she sniffs, with a little toss of her chin, "I am not Girl. I am Raeleigh." It sounds like Ray-lee the way she says it. "And Where's Zzzzzanadu anyway?" Saying it as she heard him say it.

Mur'dah huffs, staring at the girl-Raeleigh sitting on him. He stays perfectly still. Now would not be the best time for an untimely visit from his male parts. "Raeleigh. I'm Mur'dah Coldstone. And no you shouldn't be. That's Kalsuoth. He's a gentleman. Xanadu? It's…a ways away. But…yeah. Not too far 'cuz of between and all that. You want to get off me? Or…" Or? Kalsuoth rumbles, though it's hard to tell if it's from amusement or meant to be encouraging.

Untimely… Whaaat kind of clothes do riders wear these days?! Nevermind male parts, an untimely visit from a male relative right now would be a disaster! Oh! Right she's… sitting on him. She kicks a leg over and hops to her feet in one fluid motion. "Sorry!" She isn't, really says the perky grin. That was kinda fun! "Hello Kalsuoth," the brown gets a tiny be-mittened wave. "Nice catch!" She cocks her head to the young- Mur'dah. "It's not in the High Reaches," announces Raeleigh with a very certain air. How would she know? She doesn't say, but, "I've heard of Cold Stone Hold." She frowns saying it.

Mur'dah pushes to sit up, and then to his feet. Doesn't matter what kind of clothing riders weyr. He's a sixteen turn old boy. A brownrider. Full of male vigor and…energy…and stuff. Lots of /stuff/. He eyes her cautiously and then shrugs with a snort. "No, it's not in Reaches. And yes, Cold Stone." He grimaces a bit at her frown. "My uncle runs it now. Thadan is dead." He glances up as Kalsuoth edges closer, putting a paw into the hole for Mur'dah to stand on one of his fingers. "Want a lift?" he asks, holding out his hand to Raeleigh.

Butbut… visits! Maybe if he forgot to zip his fly? "Oh." says Raeleigh with a blink, "Y-your uncle?" Open mouth insert foot! "Sorry. Our caravn stopped at Cold Stone several times. It was not pleasant." The shadow overhead draws her attention up. This time there's no yelp. She just moves back against the side of that snow wallow to get out of the way of the paw. "A lift… to wheeeeeere?" she asks with a skeptical eye to that offered hand, but note, she's giving the stranger - a dragonrider - her mittened hand even as she asks. The mountain folk are a cautious, distrusting sort, Rayleigh is not.

Mur'dah takes her hand and helps her up, and he smirks. "Just up…to the top of this snow. Or to where you live, preferably. I come with a…an opporutunity I guess. An offer, for folks. And I know it wasn't pleasant, my grandfather was not a pleasant man." There's a scowl. "My uncle is different."

Inside that mitten, Raeleigh's fingers curl 'round Mur'dah's hand and she nods. She could manage to get out of the hole herself - she's done it before. It would take effort and a lot of flail-crawling and Mur'dah would laugh, but she could do it. "We haven't been back to meet him," she says. She will take his word for it! "What kind of opportunity?" she asks curiously, though as they emerge from the hole, she'll point to that circle of mounds yonder. "My folks are over there."

Mur'dah glances at the dangerous and deep snow beneath their feet, then up to his dragon. "You…want to try and walk? Or ride?" he offers, gesturing up to Kalsuoth's side. The black brown rumbles softly, but keeps his face away from the skittish girl.

Hey now, Raeliegh isn't skittish. She was pumped high on adrenalin! Not that the poor brown would know that! Aaaaaand even then it's better if the dragon doesn't get too close. She's not afraid of dragons but like she told his rider, she's never met one before. She peers waaaay up at the dragon, then over to the campsite. "Better not take him in there," she warns. "But we can't walk. Here. This is how we go when we don't have snowshoes." She lets go of his hand and drops to her knees. Then begins crawling towards those snow mounds. She's wearing a red snowsuit-like… outfit. It fits her like a glove. She is totally unaware of how it might look to a sixteen turn old boy with her crawling away like that. She stops, peeks back over her shoulder. "Coming?"

Mur'dah /stares/ at her as she crawls away, and he gulps. "Not yet." Har har har? But he does try to mimic her movements, spreading out his body so he doesn't fall through the crust as easily.

Raeleigh just looks confused as she peers back at Mur'dah. What IS he smirking about over there? There is no crust. It's powder all the way to the ground. "Oh you don't have to belly-crawl, Mur'dah," she calls back trying not to laugh. "Like this will keep you from sinking." And off she goes like a toddler, fast-crawling. It's not so far, really.

Mur'dah eyes her again, gulping a bit before he adjusts his posture and wiggle crawls after her. This…isn't exactly the dignified arrival he was hoping for? But…oh well?

At least there are no eyes watching from those buried mounds to see their undignified crawling? In fact, save for curls of smoke rising out of pipes emerging from those snow mounds, there are no other signs of life. Continued crawling brings them to that campsite where Raeleigh crawls out of sight as she enters a depression. There he will see a packed-snow incline leading down to circular path has been maintained to connect those mounds. The path is steep-sided and close to fifteen feet deep. Raeleigh is standing at the bottom, waiting for him.

Mur'dah crawl/slides down that incline and then pushes to his feet, brushing off his hands and looking around in curiosity. "So how long do you live here? All turn round?" he asks, a bit awed at their ingenious designs.

Raeleigh regards Mur'dah. Brown eyes alight with amusement, "Noooo. Who on Pern would want to live in a snowbank?" She flips a hand to indicate the clearing - they're below the snow so the mounds are not visible presently. "We had illness in the group last fall so the Weyr wouldn't let us enter. The illness was slow to clear and several snowstorms later our caravan was trapped. Stuck until spring thaw. We get supplies from the Weyr. C'mon!" She makes a grab for his hand, her intent to tow him along as she scuttles towards one of those holes. There's a wooden door, which Raeleigh opens without knocking and sings out as she enters, "Mamaaaa, Papaaaaa. I've brought a guest." Pause. "With a proposal." She twinkles over her shoulder at the tall young man. Does he have a sense of humor?

Mur'dah is grabbed and tugged along after, though he does manage, "Is anyone still sick?" Faranth, is he going to die out here? Then his proposal is being sing-songed and he coughs, giving her hand a firm squeeze. Quit it. Do /they/ have a sense of humor is more like it as the brownrider ducks in and tries to shake off the snow before actually entering their…whatever it is. Wagon? He'll get some off but of course he's going to be still dripping on their floor. "Hi."

They enter a wagon - this one is clearly intended for habitation rather than hauling. It is long and wide, fitted with bunks towards the back, a small iron coal stove in the center, shelves, cupboards and counters nearby, bench seats and a table near the front, which ends in a floor-to-ceiling wall. The driver's area must be outside. Sitting at the table is a burly red-haired man - he's huuuuge! He's sharpening a… knife? It gets worse! The woman is not much smaller - she's not fat - she's large-framed and lanky - yet a handsome woman. And neither of them are smiling. How… did such two produce the petite and cheerful Raeliegh? Speaking of the girl, she decides not to tease him about mass deaths (really a small caravan could not produce near enough bodies to make such an outlandish claim). "No!" she assures him with a more proper smile. The pair… are still staring at Mur'dah, waiting. And Raeleigh remembers to pipe up and introduce him, "This is Mur'dah, from Zzzzzzanadu. Mur'dah, my papa, Chapar and my mama, Lei." Good… luck?

Mur'dah clears his throat as he lets go of Raeleigh's hand, dipping down in a formal Holder's bow. "Sir. Ma'am," he greets solemly. "Xanadu," he quietly corrects. "I'm from Z- Xanadu," damn it, "brown Kalsuoth's. Mur'dah Coldstone is my name." And he'll just wait at that point. Terrified.

Chapar doesn't move a muscle to acknowledge the introduction. He simply stares. The woman puts the iron skillet she'd been holding on the stovetop with a jarring clank. The thing must be heavy, even for such a giantess as she. She moves to sit beside the man, her eyes - large and brown (this is where Raeleigh gets them) - warily on Mur'dah. Chapar points with the knife at the bench opposite in a silent request that he be seated. Raeleigh heads that way first, slips into the bench where Mur'dah has been directed to and scoots over to give him room. This isn't awkward at all is it?

This is the story of Mur'dah's life, really, and he dips his head and moves forward to sit a polite distance away from Raeleigh on that bench. "Thank you." He pauses, and then continues. "I'm looking for some folks interested in moving to Xanadu to care for a new herd of camelids that we're moving in."

Just like that huh? Chapar continues to stare. Lei does too. Raeleigh perks with interest even though she has no idea where the heck Xanadu is. "That's your proposal?" Chapar finally grunts with a significant look to his daughter. Who beams brightly back at her sire. What? He's cute, she's already hugged him and he's a dragon rider! She does not say this out loud. Lucky Mur'dah? Chapar seems… interested. His next question, "What is Xanadu? And where is it? There's a contract, is there?" He'd like to see it.

Mur'dah glances at Raeleigh and then at Chapar, nodding. "Yes, sir." What did he think he was proposing? He then shakes his head slightly at Chapar. "Xanadu is a weyr in the Southern Continent. I don't have an official contract at the moment, but there would be one. Right now I'm just looking for interested folks. You'd move to outside of the weyr, have full access to the weyr's resources of course, but tend to the camelid herds well away from the dragons. There's pay, and room and board included."

Apparently Chapar was hoping someone would take his daughter off his hands? Though his interest in the business proposal is more avid. "We've driven herds of the critters from holds to market." But then, he remembers something, "Cold Stone ya say?" He frowns. It's a scary expression. Raeleigh speaks up, "Oh papa, stop. The old holder is dead." She reaches over to pat that huge hand holding the knife. Lei finally speaks up, "Does it snow there? I'm so tired of these deep snows."

Mur'dah nods, "Yes, my uncle is Holder now," he is quick to say, glancing at Raeleigh and giving her a little smile, grateful for her speaking up. Then he looks to the woman and nods. "It does snow, but not nearly to this extent." Then he smiles. "Just enough to be beautiful."

Chapar considers. Lei's comment draws a considering look. The snows have been… a burden to his trading business. He is out of commission nearly six months of each turn when the snows close the roads to the mountainous holds. He sets the knife down and reaches a beefy hand across the table to Mur'dah to shake. "If you will bring me a copy of that contract, I'll take a look." He's still stern and unsmiling, promising nothing, but he's interested. Raeleigh is definitely interested! She has a million questions those will wait until they aren't sitting across from her parents.

Mur'dah leans forward and, grinning, gives the man's hand a firm shake. "Yes, sir. I'll get a contract and bring it to you. Thank you for your time." Pushing to his feet, he dips down in a bow and turns towards the door. Seeing himself out, it looks like!

Nono, Raeleigh will see him out! She skips after him and if he doesn't mind, she'll crawl back to Kalsuoth and wave him on his way. She still has to find her lost toboggan-ski.

Great, more sexy crawling to make Mur'dah's ride home all the more uncomfortable.

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