Another Cave-in

Xanadu Weyr - Old Forest

Here, beyond the tumbled boulders and cliffs of the Forest's Edge lies an old forgotten forest. Left unlogged and abandoned due to the rough terrain, the trees here have grown to massive proportions, their moss-cloaked trunks twisted in odd forms by time and the determination to endure. Moss carpets the boulders and vines that creep from the dense canopy overhead, while ferns spring from cracks and crevice alike - all serve to insulate this portion of the wood to near-silence, the feeling of isolation only intensified by the silence. Drifting on the barely-there eddies of current in the motionless air is the scent of rotted wood, fresh earth and damp stone.

Off to the south, a break in the trees can be glimpsed, while to the west there seems to be a bit of a depression in the ground. Tread with caution!

Better safe than sorry, as they say. Xe'ter's been…busy. Quietly, so..but busy. He was very formal, indeed, when he scheduled a meeting about Weyr matters late in the afternoon; something about arranging regular mail and delivery service contracting in the Southern Continent by way of the Iernean bronzerider A'dmar's business; something about Weyr-Weyrhold commerce and relations. Not exactly normal for a meeting to be so late, but he was scheduled up the whole day ahead…and the day before that. (One day, Thea might catch on that that means Xe'ter was…up to something.) The something he was up to this time? Arranging, very quietly, to have one of the senior wherhandlers available, so that he could whisk the goldrider and bronzerider down to the edge of the forest, where the pitfall rests, and where the wherhandler and his mossy green companion wait for them, the wher hooded with soft fabric so she won't be distressed by the arrival of the riders with their bright glowbaskets.

He calls out, softly, "Yulio? We're here!" Yulsk snorts, but seems more bemused than cranky about the mask over her head, and the young Weyrleader covers his basket, so as not to blind the creature.

Thea, present during the meeting has been mostly silent save for a question here and there. Xanadu needs enterprise and new revenue, so she's open to new ideas. Having given her blessing for the endeavor at the conclusion of the meeting, she is nothing if not bemused herself at the Weyrleader's invitation to A'dmar to view their newest curiosity but she'll go along with it. Yes, she's fast-learning that the new Weyrleader has ideas up his sleeve and likely grows them overnight while others are sleeping. So who knows? Perhaps the delivery rider will be involved in making this pit more than a hole to dump marks into while paying miners and smiths to inspect it. She's taken a few minutes to change into leathers and boots, more suitable for a hike than her office attire and meets up with them finally, brushing bits of moss and bark from the dark hair of her still-upswept twist.

The bronzerider of Ierne arrived in muted fashion, a more subdued outfit that lacked color save for the crisp dark blue scarf around his neck, the rest, was a suit of charcoal underlined in a white cuffed shirt. He had been very concise with his words and held proper (almost too perfect) mannerisms, rigidly showing his respect but at the same time with an air of confidence that suggested he expected the same in return during his meeting with the Weyrleaders of Xanadu. The rumor of the brawl in Fort he was involved in, with the Weyrleader up there, had likely come to damage some of his reputation, even if it had been great for business in other aspects. Compiled with the fact that upon first meeting Thea, she with held the little part about her being a Weyrwoman, had made him brusque to the point of rudeness. It seemed he almost had a stick up where the sun don't shine as he was -asked- to walk along on some far fetching stroll on the whim of the Xanadu Weyrleader. And unlike Thea, the man didn't bring along any gear to go on a hike, which is likely the cause for him shaking his head several times along the way in a disapproving gesture or picking at his clothes when a branch had ensnared it. Bottom line however, he held to that sharp politeness of his and the entire time had avoided acknowledging the Weyrwoman save for the first time he entered into the office. Even now, as they settle at the rim of the sinkhole, the stare was leveled at Xe'ter and plainly read as: 'you better have a good reason for this.'

It's hard to say; if Xe'ter even KNEW about the altercation with Fort's Weyrleader, he certainly didn't mention it, and while he was polite to the point of archaicness, he wasn't … unfriendly in any way. Maybe a bit overly enthusiastic, having pointed out several times that he was once a delivery rider AND briefly fostered at Ierne to boot…but he was firm about the going down with them to see the great big hole in the ground. In the forest. In the dark, now that the sun's set. Maybe he means to shove the independant bronzer into the hole? No, not likely.

The wherhandler calls back, "We've been down a bit already, Weyrleader. Weyrwoman." He considers A'dmar, but just puts a hand on Yulsk's neck, reassuringly, at the sound of another set of boots on the forest floor. "The stairs down are pretty sturdy now, as you asked. We've some ropes and fresh glowbaskets down there too. Looks good. You know, it's odd…the rock's not rotten up here…or down below. Can't tell much in the dark, but it almost looks like worked stone." But he snorts at that…that's impossible, right?

As for Thea, let's just say she hid her dismay VERY well upon entering the office to find A'dmar, of all people, there with the Weyrleader. Greeting him with poise and offering hospitality to the Iernian bronzerider, she hasn't seemed at all annoyed or put out with his sharply polite veneer. Oh yes, she's noticed and likely understands the reason for it. Keeping her face pleasantly neutral, although brightly interested in the business side of things, there is, nonetheless, a tiny bit of dance to those sea-green eyes of hers, corners of her lips fighting to quirk up just a titch - an impulse she keeps firmly in check. Her questions for why they're taking the Iernian on such a trek are kept to herself, although she's likely mulling the possibilities over in her head from the way she flickers glances between the men and the forest. As they draw near to the hole and the wherhandler gives his report, she narrows her gaze at Xe'ter. Obviously they're expected, but her immediate response is, "Worked stone? Way out here?" Oh she's absolutely curious!

For nicety and perhaps necessity, A'dmar had come along to see what the Weyrleader had in mind, holding his tongue even when his stares would indicate he would rather brave his words than tromp through the forest and scuff a shoe. In believing it had been just a meeting of the Weyrleaders, he had dressed to impressed, and now there were hints he had regretted it, especially with the scowl that bites at the corners of his lips. Remaining impassive grew increasingly difficult, more so when the wherhandler started speaking of the stairs leading down into the depression in the ground - until that last remark from the handler. It causes A'dmar's brows to rise upward. Worked stone meant the possibility of forgotten tunnels which could lead to more exciting discoveries. For the most part, that is the extent of his reaction. Brows up, scowl lessening, eyes squinting in contemplation.

The miner, a hale man in his middle years, wearing a journeyman's knot, "Aye, that's what it looks like to me." But that's IMPOSSIBLE, his tone says. "No known tunnels out this way. Our mines go out the other direction from here. No records at all that there's anything worth digging out this way. Rock's hard, and there's obviously some geological instability." Can't possibly be worked stone! Yulsk gives another grunty warble, and the man pats her again, "But it's clean. There's even some fresh air coming in, down below. Wouldn't take flame down there, just in case. Not sure you want to have a look down there with us in the dark." Right. The whery's sensitivity to light would be hard on human eyes. "But it doesn't look like there's any substantive danger for a bit, either way. It'd be dark down there in the middle of the day."

"Is the ground finally stable then?" This from Thea to Xe'ter, who has been handling the investigation and seclusion of this place in the past seven or so. She's craning her neck to see down into the void, little helped by the moons for they have yet to show. Dinner, settling her twins for the night, weyrmate, all but forgotten in the momentary excitement of this revelation. Cocking her head at the Weyrleader, she waits for his reason they are here, flickering a long look at A'dmar's dress shoes and wincing at his having has to trek through the forest while wearing them.

Xe'ter nods a touch, and the miner backs him up, "With the rain finally settling, the ground's drying out. You might get a might of mud on you, at worst, but only if you're not careful. It's a big passage. Easily several people abreast, if we cleaned it out." Not that we're going to do that, the miner's tone says. Xe'ter chuckles, "So…do you want to have a look?" It's offered out, oh so innocently, to both Thea and A'dmar. A boy's enthusiasm, there…

"I fail to understand the reason that I was asked here," this stated with a flat tone to Xe'ter, A’dmar’s dark brown eyes steady upon the younger bronzer. There was some vague notion of interest as his eyes descended toward the sinkhole, hedging forward slightly before rocking back on his heels, eyes reverting back to the Weyrleader to hear the logic behind that boyish enthusiasm.

Thea's left hand twitches by her side. She's probably stifling the urge to facepalm - either that or smack Xe'ter, not that anyone would know that, right? She does shift her eyes from the chasm below to the young Weyrleader in a 'you're kidding, right?' sort of stare, flickering beyond to take in A'dmar's presence and she can't quite hide the dismay about the timing of this and that he apparently wasn't apprised beforehand so he could dress appropriately. It's pretty obvious from the way she gives A'dmar a down-then-up look. Mingled with that though, is a direct challenge to the Iernean beonzerider, a 'dare-ya to say no' as she lifts her chin ever so slightly. "You know I do!" Lightly spoken, there is nevertheless, a subtle note to her tone. Oh yes, Xe'ter, we'll be doing Diplomacy 101 tomorrow!

Xe'ter grins to Thea, and offers, "Well, if you'd rather stay behind, I'd understand. But Thea'd like a look at the place herself, while no one's busy looking over her shoulder telling her how a weyrwoman should or shouldn't comport herself. Besides…when are you ever going to get another chance, eh?" After a moment, he grabs up a glowbasket again, and heads towards the edge of the pit. The Miner coughs, and notes, "When you get down there…fresh air's coming from that direction…and deeper into the hill. I suspect there's a fissure in the rockface that way."

A'dmar exchanges looks not to Thea or to Xe'ter, but down at his shoes and then to his jacket. It seems there is already some unsatisfactory wear to both, since he cringes as his face comes up. "It would seem my attire is already ruined." A bit dramatic? Maybe, but maybe not. This guy when it came to dressing, was immaculate and never seemed to wear anything that would be considered 'drab.' He does catch the chin lift of a challenge from Thea, taking it with quick avoidance of his gaze in her direction. She had got under his skin and the hand at his side which twitched might suggest that conclusion. Either way, he'll follow both Xe'ter and Thea down - this was their turf after all.

Thea waits for the pair to have words, then as Xe'ter is heading over to the ladder, she asides in a cryptic statement meant to explain the Weyrleader, "I'm sure he's got… a good reason. But I suspect it's back on his desk in his folder." That folder of epic with all those tabs, notes, pockets, bells and whistles that the Weyrwoman has yet to decipher. With a cough for his clothes, she does murmur firmly, "Being formerly of weavercraft, I hate to see fine clothing ruined, but I'll have those reimbursed." Not we. I. And she says it as though she can do so without any problem whatsoever. The statement is made with an air of both confidence and conciliation, an odd mix to be sure. She then steps after the Weyrleader. "I'll follow after you, Xe’ter?"

Xe'ter grins despite himself, opening the hood of the glowbasket and bathing the area in its odd, greenish white glow. He heads for the edge, and then notes, "Weyrlady, since I invited him along, I can have him reimbursed. Don't worry about it." And then he's headed down the stairs, tromping a bit as if he could make sure that meant they were, indeed, nice and sturdy.

"How generous," the polite retort to such an offering, hard despite the civility, as if he would have demanded them to do so had they not willingly suggested the very thing. For Thea's commentary about the Weyrleader's reasoning, the Ierne bronzer remarks absently, "Or up his sleeve." He waits for the pair to figure themselves out, following only after he hoists a glow basket, nearly snapping it from the hands of the Wherhandler who had offered it in passing. He follows with only the slightest of thunks of his shoes heard. "At least there are stairs…" a remark said as they descend into the growing darkness.

Thea refrains from arguing with Xe'ter about replacing the clothing, merely shrugs, conceding to him, although the glint in her eyes says otherwise. She acknowledges A'dmar's tone with nary a blink, perhaps already having formed her own opinions to why the hard edge to him. She's neither meek nor offended, and there's certainly nothing to indicate she's worried about being forgiven, her posture is relaxed, easily following to the ladder and starting down in Xe'ter's wake. She does fight a smirk and there's perhaps an inward snicker about the sleeve comment if the wavering of her voice is any indication; containing laughter, "There are more painful ways to descend, I've heard."

Xe'ter snorts from the wavery shadows a few steps below Thea…but it's a shared sort of chuckle, "Aye, well. At least we don't need his assistance tonight. I'd hate to see him ruin the other half of the set!" Oh, now that's not necessarily nice, but all the same. He notes, "It's still a bit warm down here, from soaking up the sun all day."

A'dmar doesn't remark between all the conjecture of how to descend, not necessarily the chatty type beyond business. He's just trudging down trying to mind his shoes on the rough hewn stairs, making sure that each step is taken with the glow basket illuminating the stair before he steps. Precisely avoiding any sharp edges or material that hasn't been fully hammered in.

Dryly to Xe'ter, "Would you now." Not really phrased as a question for it's totally lacking the uptick in tone at the end. "And we'd better not or D'h-" Thea’s lips close firmly on the rest of her sentence and she continues to the bottom in silence. It isn't until they reach the bottom and she's stepped away from the ladder that she looks up at the rim to see faint stars twinkle above the forest canopy. With a barely-audible gasp she notes, "We're in deep!" They're in deep something alright.


Xanadu Weyr - Old Forest Sinkhole

A wide maw has opened in the forest here, sending earth and trees tumbling into the abyss. Vines and shrubs cling to the sides of the dark hole, the bottom of which is far below. The pungent scent of earth and splintered wood rises moistly out of the cavernous pit. At night there's really nothing to see. Should one have a light, or a wher with them, or be here in the daytime they'd know that huge, squared boulders that once both lined walls and formed arch supports lie tumbled upon a stone floor and there seems to be a tunnel entering and exiting either side. Even in daylight though, these can be barely discerned due to the dimness.

The entire area has been cordoned off with ropes and warning signs not to get too close to the unstable edges. Constructed of wood with railing on either side is a temporary stairway, more resembling a ladder than staircase, affixed to the side and floor below providing the way down to the bottom.

Xe'ter lifts his lantern up high, and then notes, "We should leave one of the glow baskets here…" But he's busy gazing up…and up…and up into the entrance of the hole, so very high above, "Shards…would you look at that…that's impressive…that's like…trip to the Yokohama impressive."

A'dmar glances up only once at their 'awe' struck sentiments, deciding to meander (push by if he can't squeeze through without touching them) by to look deeper in, hoisting the glow basket to shed light on the more shadowy parts of the sinkhole. The man glances back idly, waiting for the weyrleaders to get over the initial depth of their trek into the earth. A'dmar's reactions? Not evident what so ever. His face expressionless.

Thea is looking rather stunned at the enormity and the depth, then peers the huge pile of dirt, rocks and twisted limbs and trunks that is all that is left of the first and secondary collapse - still here after the few sevens since the night the group fell in. "I'm… amazed we ended up alive after that." She lifts a booted foot to prod at the pile with a toe, "I guess the dirt saved us." That it could obviously have done the opposite is left unsaid as she turns to squint into the darkness. Her boot soles echo eerily in the corridor as she steps towards the nearest wall, runs her fingertips over it, feeling the texture. "It is smooth. Very smooth and the surface has been polished, like glass. How… odd."

Xe'ter moves that bit, so A'dmar can get past…that, or all bronzeriders are allergic to being touched by other bronzeriders…but he moves to touch the wall as well…up above? The outline of the wherhandler can be dimly discerned, as Yulio calls down, "Everything looking as you'd like, Weyrleader?" Xe'ter calls back up, delighted, "Aye, this is wonderful! But you don't need to stay if you don't want. We can always call to our dragons if worse comes to worst!"

A'dmar considers the rubble with mild interest, for an instant, swinging the lantern wide round, as if to catch a hint of what lies further in. "Smooth rock isn't odd…" he interjects, "Water and wind can erode the surface smooth."

There's a look askance at Xe'ter and a mutter at the talk of worst coming to worse, and a glance up at the wherhandler as if she's uncertain as to whether he should leave, but she shrugs, flattening her palm to the wall as she returns her attention to it. "I know," she says quietly in response to A'dmar, "I've seen rock like that up in the High Reaches. But this-" She swipes her hand in a long arc, feeling the surface further, "-is completely flat with no ripples or irregularities in it." She scuffs a foot along the floor adding, "And underfoot as well." She's intrigued that's certain, from the sound of her voice as she peers into the blackness on either side. "Which way should we go?" Not that they have many choices, there are only two directions.

Xe'ter holds up his glowbasket a moment, and then tests the air with his finger, almost teasingly. The soft waft of air is as the miner said…from thataway! "Well, since that way seems to go out…towards the rockface, he said…so why don't we go this way first?" He thumbs back over his shoulder, eyes all asparkle with amusement. Sharding sailorboy Weyrleader! "Since we know we'll be getting fresh air and what not."

Its a good thing that it's dark in there, because it clearly hides the eye roll that A'dmar lets break free of his expressionless mask for the sake of both of the weyrleaders. Eyeroll for Thea and one for Xe'ter. His whole idea of politeness would be out the window if they saw that. Good thing that he hoists his glow basket enough to put the glare of light between his face and theirs. There's a word spoken in a language that seems completely foreign and exotic, a thick sounding roll of a tongue, with a tone of exasperation despite the language barrier.

"After you then," Thea says to her Weyrleader. She doesn't seem too horribly concerned since the wherhandler has just given them the 'all-clear', his assurance that the ground is stable goes a long way towards her peace of mind in continuing. She might not see the eyeroll, but she can hear the tone of A'dmar's voice. "Well, they are! Hold your glow to the wall and see for yourself." Stepping past him to follow Xe'ter, she says sweetly, "If you have a problem with being here, we're not stopping your departure, you know. Your loss, but." Then she shrugs.

Xanadu Weyr - Ruins South Tunnel


Ancient smoothly-cut stone walls here drip with moisture, the scent that rises to your nostrils is of damp stone, plant decay and musty long-unused space. Underfoot the flooring is smooth, polished stone and might be a touch slippery due to the wet dripping from tendrils of roots that have managed to work their way between the stones lining the space overhead. Though dark, this corridor was obviously meant to be lit as there are ornate niches inset into the walls on both sides of the tunnel at regular intervals.

In one direction the tunnel ends in a stone-arched exit, while in the other the darkness of the long corridor presses heavily save for the distant and faint light filtering in from the sinkhole.

Xe'ter putters down the passage way a little, until he stops and lifts his glowbasket high, with a slight intake of breath, "Sharding fool…I'm no miner, but that dunna look natural at all…" He lifts up his free hand, and then strokes one of the tight joins of stone on stone, "That is not…a natural phenomenon…I grew up in rough hew caves, and I saw the anceint's work at Ista…I dunno know what else that could be!"

A'dmar sniffs a bit, waiting for Thea and Xe'ter to move ahead before he examines the walls himself. There's a shuffling of the glow basket so that as the man runs his hand down the rock he can see the given point that Thea brought up. Then he's following behind their bobbling light, sighing as he grumbles as if to a mental sidekick, "Don't know why under Rukbat's glow I'm down here…Treasures? As if they would even think of sharing…" Plod plod plod… then a YOUCH as he stubs his toe, jumping up and down on one foot for a time. "Shard it all.." he growls into the dark, debating a turn about, though he doesn't, instead, he hobbles along to keep up - wincing a little from the stubbed toe is all.

Thea is leaning to peer at the joint pointed out by Xe'ter, fingers lightly tracing the near-perfect seam. "The ancients? Here?" Her lips purse, considering. "Why would they leave this place?" Her voice is full of wonder, pale eyes glimmering golden in the glowlight as she lifts them to one of the protuberances in the wall. "What's this?" She rises up on tiptoes to reach it while her hand reaches to explore the niche. The echoes of A'dmar's cry gives her pause, and with her hand still inside that shadowed alcove, she peers in his direction. There's no laughter - and it may be masterful self-control that keeps her voice devoid of it - when she asks, "Are you okay?" Something moves in the niche, touches her fingertip and she yanks it back with a high-pitched squeak that resounds down the tunnel in both directions. Then echoes back. Creepy? You bet.

Xe'ter snorts a bit, "Because it floods and has landslides and earthshakes? Or maybe it was just Thread?" But he does cock his head a bit…that IS a weird sound…and from deeper in, there's a fluttering sound, like disturbed wings taking flight. He cranes his head back to look at A'dmar, just to make sure. He wanted the man to tag along…not get hurt!

"It does now," muses Thea absently without disagreeing per se, merely wondering. "I-" But it is then that she jerks her hand back and recoils into Xe'ter chattering, "WhattheshellwasthatTHING????" She's wide-eyed and wiping her hand on her leathered thigh. "Ugh! It was this… slimy…wriggle…thing!" She shudders and adds for good measure, "EeewwW!" The disturbed occupant within the niche glistens in the glowlight as it skitter-slithers off the ledge and down to the floor with a ripe-sounding *splat* before scurrying soundlessly into a crack in the floor and disappearing.

As the Weyrwoman is focused on the… creature, there is an ominous, far off sensation. A bass vibration, a sense of pressure. Then down the corridor comes the sound - at first it is barely audible, more like the feeling of eardrums fluttering in response. Then a soft WHUMP – a percussion that travels the tunnel underfoot, a pressure change that follows before the gradually increasing in volume sound actually reaches them: RrrrrrrummMMMMBLE! Whatever dim light that was back towards the sinkhole is now gone. Save for the single glow they have, they are in total darkness.

Considering that A'dmar had fallen behind… the cave in catches him before it reaches Thea and Xe'ter. The guy doesn't even have much of a chance to tell them to 'run' before the wall of dust and rock is upon him. And his glow basket. Darkness falls. If the weyrleaders have a glow between them, then maybe they won't be left in the dark. Still, the rumble all but erases the Ierne bronzer from sight and sound.

Continues in Trapped?

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