Flaming Practice

Xanadu Weyr Region - Open Plains

Open plains stretch in every direction, the tall grass interrupted now and then by a group of rocks suddenly thrust upwards from the ground or a copse of trees gathered around a spring-fed pond. The high grass looks like an ocean as the wind causes it to ripple back and forth, creating the illusion of puddles here and there, even as the ground slopes gently upwards towards the mountains that can just be seen on the southern horizon.
Despite the remoteness, there are lines cut here and there amongst the grasses of the prairie, most in pairs as they track from one direction to another. The campsites of former travelers can be made out here and there where a tent was once pitched, or a campfire once burned - and the remenants of some shelters remain.

A number of young Weyrlings have been recruited to help with this practice session, over a dozen of them high in the air, shoulder bags stuffed to overfilling. Antsy, they wait, calling across the distance to each other, glancing down now and then at the forest that stretches beneath them - particularly brown for this time of year.

An ornery old greenrider - none other than the Weyrlingmaster V'dim - sits a'top Isobeth, the man assuming the center 'stage' as it were, between the weyrlings high overhead and the gathering riders. "Riders!" He calls out, letting his voice carry in the hot air. "Assume your positions!" And even as the Weyrlingmaster is giving commands, he's shifting skywards to join his charges.

The first of the weyrlings reaches into his saddle bag, pulling forth a tangle of 'thread' - heavy rope covered in an odd powdery dye. Its set free then, the long strands unfolding as it drops towards the ground, the other weyrlings moving to do the same, letting the targets be caught in the wind and carried this way and that.

Faraeth turns his head receiving and chewing the harsh firestone to mush and incubating it in his belly until with a mighty roar he dives after one of the tangles of 'thread' belching flame and fury.

With most riders clustered up into arbitrary 'wings' for the exercise rather than in their regular wings, D'son is actually in amongst the riders /not/ leading one for once. Just a regular joe for today, as he stokes up Inimeth and waits for the signal from the older brownrider who /is/ leading his group to send back the signal to go for it. A formation is given, the 'wing' forms up and off they go.

Thea is there atop Seryth along with the other queenriders practicing with Search and Rescue, wielding her flamethrower in the lower ranks, waiting to catch whatever the upper ranks miss. Last minute checking of her flamethrower is more confident since the first days of practice, although she adjusts that new strap, securing it on her shoulder.

Iawen gives a tug at Culmairoth's straps, satisfied that all is well before the little brownrider grabs a hold of the riding straps, and with an assist from the stocky small brown, hauls herself upwards onto the brown's neck, settling there to buckle her straps before her dragon's leaping aloft. There he hovers, the woman digging into her sack of firestone and offering him a chunk to grid down and swallow. It's but a moment more, as the brown strokes his wings to gain altitude, rising upwards to meet an oncoming clump of rope.

To the right of one dragon, it seems as if multiple pieces of rope have become tangled together, falling towards the ground. Sparks and smoke dance around it as it wends its way ground-ward, flaring now and again with intensity then fading, only to flare again. The weyrlings above circle and move, keeping good position, prepared to continue, watching their leader for instruction, for the most part, he just snorts, for now.

Zaruath and F'yr couldn't miss anything that dealt with fire for the world, which is why they are tucked in formation among other transport riders from the odd-end jobs that she has been able to picked up. Chewing on a mounthfull of firestone, Zaruath eyes the dyed ropes with lazily whirling eyes. F'yr prepared herself by adjusting her goggles, and tightens her helmet just a little. With a pat to the brown shoulder, she directs his head towards a clump, which he flames to ash almost as soon as he faces that way.

M'nol and Faraeth are in the rank behind F'yr and he can't help smiling to see them in the skies and happy again. Banking left, Faraeth turns another tangled bundle to char before rising back up to the ranks of his wing. M'nol gasps, then the brown blinks /between/ narrowly missing a tangle of 'thread' at his wingtip.

The informal grouping of riders D'son and Inimeth are in has adopted what's been researched as a traditional formation and cuts across as ropes slip and slide through the wind. One by one, their maws open to belch flame and some hit targets better than others. Inimeth's catches but doesn't quite burn the whole thing and bits fall smokily downward and might hit someone in the ranks below.

Culmairoth beats his wings furiously, the brown rising upwards at a calculated angle, his rider crouched low against his neck, her hands pressing the brown crest on either side of his neckridge, as the pair joins the wing of technology-minded riders — certainly not one to miss this event for the ages — and it's not long before a burst of scarlet and yellow fire blooms, erupting from the brown's jaws to sear the oncoming clump of rope to cinders. But that's not all because the brown's soon smacking his lips of a sort, and the outraged shout of his rider can be heard: "Cully, you sharding git! That's not food, so don't you try'n eat it!" And with that, they're once more falling into place amongst the wing.

Seryth's wings sweep forward, keeping her at a smooth and steady pace. Thea watches for missed rope, but there isn't much being missed by the eager riders above. Green eyes flicker across the ranks, spotting Nyunath briefly in the staggered lines and a small smile of pride for him and her friend touches her mouth briefly before it's back to sharp watchfulness.

A long strand of rope becomes dropping dangerously towards one young rider whose attention is apparently elsewhere.

M'nol sends Faraeth into a deep dive, trying to get the stray 'thread' before it reaches the other young rider, but it's too close, forcing Faraeth to pull up tight, searing just the top portion as M'nol yells above the din, "Duck, you fool!"

With more rope coming down more thickly as the weyrlings keep up the tossing, the 'wing' D'son and Inimeth are in is doing some maneuvering from side to side of the overall formation. THe smaller dragons get to flame more, generally than the big bronze does, but then there's a gap and Inimeth's head turns and flame gushes forth to take care of some 'thread'. It makes for a lot of ash and burnt bits dropping downward. Yum. Gritty.

That 'fool' ducks as Faraeth's shadow looms over her, Thea glancing up just in time to see the burning 'thread' just above her. She doesn't have time to glare at M'nol, rather her attention is on swinging the nozzle of her flamethrower up and pulling the trigger in time to send an economical blast at that sputtering rope. Seryth tilts just enough to give her rider a clear shot.

Zaruath has been flying for well over a turn, so it's not like they were showing any signs of recent flight joy as they once had in the past. The pair of them slip out from their formation, to chase another patch of thread not directly in their path. Circling around, the slip into another wing, closer to the other familiar brownrider. With a salute, F'yr grins over in M'nol's direction before easily tossing some firestone into her lifemate's open maw, wiping the ash on her old worn leathers she keeps around for when they do any flaming.

Wind catches a piece of rope, sending it suddenly sideways at an unsuspecting dragon pair. It coils and curls like a worm on fire, as if resisting the flames as best it can, and failing. Direction changing course with every twist of the burning rope.

Faraeth , now well out of formation, is surprised when a bundle of thread runs right into his side. Instinctively he ducks /between/, but the insidious stuff is still attached when he emerges, not being real thread after all. Under M'nol's direction, he labours hard to regain altitude and re-join his wing, burning one more bundle to ash before he snakes his head back for more firestone.

D'son leans over in the straps as he hears some shouting down below, peers at how things are moving there for a moment, then has to jerk upright again as he realizes more rope is coming. What's the basic thing they teach? Stay in formation. Right. Gotta do that.

Still new to flamethrowers and using them, Thea hefts the instrument a bit awkwardly as she shifts to the other side, just missing a burning rope as it falls past. Seryth tries to follow it down, folding her wings, but their altitude is already low and the descent too slow. Thea watches the smoldering thing until it is lost to sight while Seryth's wings pump hard to regain her spot in formation.

M'nol ducks as Faraeth banks after another patch of the faux thread, burning it again to ash, which sprays through M'nol's face, leaving him blinking, eyes tearing up from the itchiness.

The air splits with an angry bugle, namely from Zaruath, as his wing gets smearing with a clump of 'Thread' that both he and F'yr completely missed. The brownrider can only laugh though at her frustrated lifemate. "Hurry up and catch it!" And the brown does just that, snaking his neck downwards and the next belch goes that way, catching the tail end of it and at least flaming most of it out of the skies. Ah well. With an annoyed flap the dragon moves up a bit higher, looking for more stone.

A sudden gust of wind pushes a clump back upwards from where it had nearly reached the forest below, though the upward gust can only do so much, gravity beckons it downward once more in a sparkly display of sparks. Drift.

A pair of riders drop a little to catch that drifting clump, dispatched by their wingleader for the exercise. Up on Inimeth, D'son is kind of eyeing the treeline dubiously and looks left and right, checking in on how things are going. « Make sure not to let any drop in the trees, » Inimeth passes along to all. « They're very very dry. »

Thea watches as bits of burning rope fall to the ground below, uncaught. Dismay registers on her face as she eyes the dry condition. "We'll fly a low-level sweep afterwards, I hope," she mutters to herself. Ahead another tangle is missed, but this one is not burning. With three fast beats, Seryth's forward speed increases enough that they manage to intercept it. The gout of flame from her 'thrower catches the bottom end and burns it in a column of crackling orange and black smoke. The gold veers around it, her rider leans and they avoid the thing. Seryth answers, « Some has already made it to the ground, I'm afraid.» Concern transmitted from her rider is in her tone.

A lunge upwards, the action throwing Iawen against her safety harness, although she's well buckled in and doesn't get more than a quick jarring, and Culmairoth is arching downwards suddenly, using the momentum of his upward climb to turn it into a harrowing dive towards a stray clump of rope; a sudden puff of fire blooming from betwixt the brown lips and it chars into ash. With another lunge, his rider aware this time and clinging tight, the dragon ascends upwards once more.

A charred strand evades the dragon pairs and drifts into a canopy of trees disappearing, its glow barely visible if it was glowing at all, like a flirtatious green, teasing the eyes, if only anyone had seen it.

Fire, fire, fire… Probably what's going through F'yr's mind, giddily, as she feeds her dragon more firestone. He's not really as agile in aerial stunts as the smaller dragons, but he can at least dive down and climb back up, probably to thoroughly flame the clumps that drift out of his reach. With a few flecks of paint on her by then, Fy frowns at her worn leathers, then down to her quickly emptying firestone sack, and finally on the trees below. Zaruath turns his head for more again, but this time the brownrider's hand is empty. "There'll be other times. Ain't really the smartest idea to continue here anymore." Her blue eyes turn towards the Weyrleader for a moment before they slip out of formation, flying back out in the direction of the Weyr.

« We'll have to go back over the ground after, » Inimeth relays again as D'son twists around again, eyeballing sparky things going this way and that. Not. Good. The bronzepair stick it out through the rest of the exercise, flaming carefully and making sure that there's no remnants from their wing at least though they can't see everywhere.

M'nol watches the smoldering strands descend into the forest, stopping Faraeth from following, he just watches, Faraeth maintaining his position in the wing, belching out the last of his firey belly.

And when the practice has ended, Seryth joins the others on a backsweep, gliding at low-level as her rider scans the dry tangle of dead vegetation below them for signs of smoke. Passing over holder's fields, they receive waves and a few calls from folks glad to see that the Weyr is taking their fear of Thread seriously by at last flaming with firestone in the sky.

With the last strands of the fake-thread tossed out of the Weyrling packs, V'dim lifts his hand to dismiss the weyrlings, a nod of thanks sending them on their way. As the targets cease to fall, the dragons below cease to flame, and an all-clear is passed through the gathered crowd. However, unlike a real threadfall, there is no ground crew, and those missed ropes and partially charred pieces are left alone, forgotten.

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