Into the Wilds

Xanadu Wilds - Mire Hold

Mire Hold is a combination of wet and dry land. Channels have been built to guide the water from the swamp in slow-draining canals, while land space has been built up to support people, crops and animals alike. Bridges and pathways crisscross across the area, providing solid footing upon which to walk. In larger open ponds gray trees stand like sentinels in the water with long moss hanging from their limbs. Tall pines or deciduous trees stand in small clumps, dotting the marshy area. Fruit trees have been planted closer to the buildings; terraced gardens have reclaimed the land and provide food for this cothold. A stone wall surrounds the main buildings, though several stone cottages can be found on the outskirts as well. Wooden fences break up pasture land for herdbeasts and runners as well as other small livestock. Very few places are sturdy enough to support a dragon, but there appears to be a somewhat suitable clearing to one side.

It's been a few days. Perhaps four. The Mire holders have returned to their hold in small trickles of twos and threes. They've kept mostly to themselves, leaving the 'visitors' to be dealt with by Gabit and Tarmin for the most part. The hold population is small. Save for an occasional glimpse of folk moving about doing daily tasks, it's been fairly quiet. The group has been made as comfortable as the Mire holders are, bedded down amongst those floor pillows in the unused learning building. There's an iron stove in there for heat and old more, swamp-appropriate clothing has been donated to the over-dressed people. The meals, save for a green soup, haven't been too weird. They've all been given tasks to pull their weight in the self-sufficient hold, whether it is weeding the raised garden beds or feeding and mucking the livestock. By now the candidate group has had some basic questions answered: they know Gabit's and Tarmin's names and some of the flora and fauna. Not the name of the hold though. And diplomatic efforts have been stymied by either misleading information, outright rebuffs or dry humor.

It's midmorning when the Xanadu group is called together, Gabit, yep, staff in hand announces, "Time for y'all to go home. An' since the dragon's ain't back, we're goin' for a walk." He seems… at least less taciturn than he did when they first showed up. "Y'all seem like y'can walk alright so I'll show you the way out of the swamps."

Tarmin's here this morning, though he's off to the side of the group. If this were a herd of cattle, he'd be the one keeping watch for strays. Given it's a group of Xanadu-folk… yeah, no, that's still a pretty accurate description of what he's doing. His posture's a casual one, relaxed, and his eyes are more on the youngsters than on Gabit; the other holder's words are unsurprising as far as he's concerned.

Kera shuffles into the clearing when the candidates are called together, still clutching the broom she was sweeping with. Casting her gaze around to take in the rest of the group, a little smile and nod sent to some before she focuses on the Holder. Perking up considerably that escape from 'Camp Swamp' is in sight, Kera grins and waste no time is grabbing her satchel and whistling for her lizard. Helping a couple others by pointing out things they are forgetting by their pallets, it's not long before she's back joining the herd, um, other candidates in the clearing.

Innes is here, with a bucket in hand, fresh from whatever chores she was doing to keep herself busy. She and that bucket have grown close over tye past few days. They're practically best friends. And seeing how close she is to that bucket, it's no surprise that she's holding it tightly as she heeds the call to join her fellow candidates. "Are you walking us back, or hoping we can follow directions?" she asks as she edges her way to the front of the group.

Garawan has surprisingly not complained that much about the conditions. Only when it causes him pain, and then not for long. After his royal screwup when they first came here, Garawan feels he owes these people not to do so. Especially when they were willing to let them stay here, even if it did take quite a bit of convincing. He has accepted whatever the people have been willing to give them with no complaints. Though he has not relinquished his gloves. And he has rarely removed them. When the mention of getting them out of there is made, he too is getting his things together, what few he's managed to accrue in the time— there's at least a walking stick— and heading to where the others are gathering.

Convinced? The Mire holders were never 'convinced'. Unseen by the mouthy group, there were consensus drawn by the evacuated Mire Holders and decisions made. If they'd so chosen, they'd have ejected the Xanadu invaders that first evening and this upcoming 'adventure' might have taken place in the dark rather than in the bright sunshine this warm midmorning. The Mire holders have remained skeptical, but perhaps deemed this group needed a few days to acclimate to the swamp before trekking through it. Nothing has been taken from anyone, least of all a pair of gloves. Not even belt knives have been confiscated because those are no match for the abilities of these swamp people to defend themselves. Gabit notes who is here and who is straggling to join and so he waits, the picture of patience himself. After all, in the swamps patience is a skill that might decide upon whether a person eats or starves, is warm or freezing, lives… or dies. So he's honed it well.

Gabit will wait until Kera is not buzzing about so busily. Meanwhile his dark eyes flick to Garawan's walking stick and a smirk curls his mouth; he'll just allow the Xanadu-dweller to lean how useless that will be in soupy, boggy ground. "It's show, not tell," he drawls in answer to Innes. "Y'all ready? Follow me, step where I step and do not stray. If I say freeze or hit the ground, you do it, no questions. Got it?" Dark eyes seek out each and every one of them, waiting for their acquiescence. They won't budge a step outside the walls of Mire without it.

It's not like the Mirefolk have been inclined to share their reasons for… well, anything… so the fact they haven't explained why they decided to share their space is pretty well to be expected. Tarmin's eyes flit over the gathering group, watching as they coalesce. Like flies on - actually, let's stick with the cattle metaphor. But he's watching them, not that he expects Gabit to miss anything. Checking twice is another important skill in the swamps!

Kera cast a look towards Innes as the other girl gathers at the front of the group. Nodding at the instructions her gaze scans over the candidates, counting to make sure everyone is there. Peering back, another nod given "Y'sir. Step where you step, freeze and down. Got it." Shrugging into her jacket, easier than carrying it through the swamp, Kera peers back towards the building and sending a litle wave, just in case anyone /is/ peering out at the potential swamp casualties.

Innes has managed to claim the spot at the head of the line (with a minimal amount of shoving) and proudly stands near Gabit, awaiting further instruction. But- oh! "The bucket!" She glances down to the object she's still holding tightly, heaving a heavy sigh as she realizes she and her dear friend Bucket must be parted. Alas, alack. She holds the bucket out to the candidate nearest to her, instructing them to pass it back until someone can set it down somewhere closer to where a bucket ought to be. Even for the sake of her new friend, she's not about to lose her spot at the head of the line. "I'm ready!" she announces, bouncing on the balls of her feet, the momentary trauma of losing her bucket-y companion quickly shed. She glances over her shoulder, waving to Tarmin, and eyeing those candidates she knows best to see if they're prepared for this adventure.

Garawan listens to the instructions, and nods when acquiescence is needed. Where it is needed, it is given. He wants to get out of here too. So he waits for those leading to start walking and follows. As he does, he makes sure to step where he's instructed, and ONLY where he's instructed. Carefully. Making absolutely sure he steps only where he's instructed to.

Xanadu Wilds - Grassy Flat

This small clearing is just barely large enough for one large dragon to land without snagging its wings on the surrounding tree branches. Here in the center of the swamp, life is rampant and the sounds, from insects to avians, can be heard. There can also be heard the rustle of tunnelsnakes and the burble and plop of gas bubbling to the surface of dark pools.

The earth here is thickly-covered with six foot tall grass, making it impossible to actually see the ground, but it appears level, and safe for landing. On three sides of the perimeter, plant life grows rampant through the dank and damp earth that gives the impression of solid ground. Quicksand-like places are hard to see until one is on top of them; A hidden hazard that takes many unawares. If you land a dragon here, it will sink to it's elbows and knees in muck. Liftoff is possible, but those dismounting will endure a slog thought hip-deep mud to arrive at the cothold just adjacent to this clearing and accessible via a narrow bridge across one of the canals.

Gabit actually grins at Innes, watching her pass the bucket back but he does not follow the progress of said bucket. "The swamp has hidden dangerous," he tells them mildly before tuning and beginning to walk. He leads them through the gate, outside of that stone wall surrounding the buildings and over the footbridge to the… marsh? That thigh-high mud slog they had on the way in? Yep that way. Only this time he angles them to one side, turning his body to thread between the stalks of marsh grass and there are… large stones to step on so they do not sink into the mud - a path across the marsh to the edge of the dark woods of the swamp on the other side. Once under the trees, Gabit waits for the rest to catch up.

Tarmin nods slightly to Innes as she waves. Acknowledgment! She can has it. Not… much of it. And she can't keep the bucket. But perhaps she's gotten something out of this trip after all! Perhaps they all have. Something to treasure. And some bugbites. He watches the group file out, and then he follows along in the rear, keeping an eye out to either side. He's not trailblazer, not while there's Gabit to do that, but he moves with ease and familiarity as rearguard, senses alert to the swamp.

Kera pays no attention to the jostling and shifting of the candidates as Gabit talks about the swamps' dangers. She's frowning, but from the mentioned dangers, or the fact that she suddenly finds herself holding the bucket she recognizes as the one Innes was carrying around. Pressing her lips together, she merely sets it by the path before edging her way along the wiggly wobbly path. Stepping from stone to stone, she occassionally has to wag an arm in order to keep her balance, and frequently offering a hand to another candidate to help the smaller ones across. "Careful Rien, could be pretty deep if ya slip." Oh, way to encourage the younger ones, nooot.

Innes is making life-long friends, here! And not just with buckets. Between Tarmin's acknowledgement and Gabit's grin, she's practically one of them, really. Perhaps they can be pen pals once she and her fellows are returned safely to the Weyr. Well… maybe not. She trails after Gabit, her attention divided between the path and making sure that those immediately behind her follow closely and don't miss a thing. "Well, look at that," she mutters under her breath as they tread across those magical stepping stones. If only they'd shown better observational skills, they could have avoided a mud bath. Her gaze drops to her feet as she hops from stone to stone, and it's only once she's safely across that she checks on those directly behind her. They seem to have made it, so she considers her protective duties momentarily finished.

Garawan follows the path of stones as well as he's able, but takes it slow so he doesn't slip too much. If he's able to he'll help some of the others who are having troubles across, provided he's not too busy trying not to fall himself.

Xanadu Wilds - Murky Swamp

Deep in the swamps of Mire, though heavily wooded, the forest appears sickly, with dead trees sticking out from the black pools, or lying fallen, victims to time, insects and pervasive moisture at the roots. Some older trees lean precariously here and there, almost as if the ground has shifted under their roots, leaving them ready to fall; all of them have moss dripping down from their branches and covering the trunks in thick layers. Thick with vegetation that continually threatens to overtake what little walking space there is. The ground underfoot is treacherous, slick with damp leaves, mud, the numerous pitfalls and large, moss-covered boulders, twisted roots lie in wait to trip unsuspecting passers-by, making traveling through the swamp a hazardous expedition. It is very easy to lose your way, or become injured, for there is no visible trail through this area. Those unaccustomed to the wilderness would be ill-advised to continue.

During the day it is fairly dim as the light filters through the thick green canopy, casting things in constant shadow, while at night it's nearly pitch black. Rain and breezes alike are kept at bay as it slowly filters through the thick canopy, making it a humid, uncomfortable place at best. The sounds of life are rampant through the swamp; avians lay claim to the tree tops and who knows for sure what else lurks in the underbrush, unseen, unheard… and waiting.

Innes, Bowyn… any of them might more easily have made friends with Gabit had they met somewhere near the forest's edge of Xanadu. Under different circumstances, people appear… well, different. Gabit is protecting his home, but he is beginning to thaw perceptibly as they enter his habitat. He flashes a lop-sided grin over his shoulder at Innes. "The secrets are all around you, Miss. Just have to look for 'em." Yeah, he saw their slog through the marsh on their way in. His staff is held balanced in one hand, level with the ground as he makes his way to the edge of the treeline. As the group catches up, he waits to make eye contact with Tarmin, nods at the man. "It is a three day walk to reach the outskirts of Xanadu," he notes. Whiiiich means they'll be sleeping in the swamp and living off the land to get there. Gabit has a pack on his back, that's got to have something useful to help them. One can hope anyway? He turns and leads them into the dark shadows and immediately the air is still, sounds magnified. The going is tricky - there doesn't appear to be much dry footing. In fact, the ground is laced with water. Save for the things too large to step over, everything is avoided, but he uses logs here, tussocks of grass there, the occasional stone there to thread his way deeper into the swamp.

Kera teeters on a rock for a few seconds, arms windmilling til she gets her balance. Even when she has her balance, She spends a few seconds glancing to those behind her, offering a quick nod then turning her attention back to the next rock. Little hop-steps get her across without taking a dive. Good thing, cause she would swear that driftwood just moved. "Did you see that?" She's quick to pointout where she 'thought' she saw something. Shaking her head and continuing on with a mutter "Gonna be a long three days."

Tarmin returns Gabit's nod. "Might be longer," he replies, with a tilt of his head toward some of the younger candidates - Rien, there, being helped along by Kera. "They got legs, but maybe they ain't too used to walking." Though nobody's fallen in yet, so that's a start… but with the length of the journey, there's going to be a lot of 'middle' involved. For now, they travel along with the candidates in the middle, and Tarmin once more trails to the rear, taking the same route trodden by many feet and trampled down to the point where sometimes those tussocks are just below the surface by the time he gets to them.

Innes lights up when Gabit grins at her again. "I get too busy looking at everything at once to notice things sometimes," she admits. Even now, she's still split between paying attention to where his feet fall, what he's saying, and the candidates who are closest to her. "You could just call me Innes instead of Miss. It'd make me feel less like I'm meant to be fancy while I'm slogging through the swamp." Considering the fact that she was bearing a bit of grime on her person before they entered this unknown territory, things are bound to get worse over the next three days. She freezes as the sound changes, glancing at their surroundings for a moment before she dares to follow Gabit. It seems as though there's to be a lot of hopping. She's actually not half bad at that, and bounces her way along from point to point, only getting some water in her shoes when her foot half-slips off the edge of a patch of grass.

Garawan watches where those who know the swamp are stepping, and starts to compare the rest of the ground. He'll hopefully be able to start seeing the safe areas in this way. If not, he'll just follow the exact steps of their guides proper, to be assured of not getting stuck in the mud.

Gabit acknowledges Tarmin's correction with a considered look at the younger ones and nods. "Might," he says laconically. The poor Xanadu folk! They're not a huge group, so that makes it easy enough when Gabit turns his head to check on the line of people behind him to ask and be heard when he asks Garawan, "You doin' okay?" He doesn't ask because the other seems to be struggling. It's because the stiff, on-guard has relaxed somewhat now that they're all out of the home of his people. And yet he walks with his senses attuned to the sounds, scents and movements of the swamp; eyes constantly on the move. They flick to Innes during that check back and he bobs his head. "Innes then," he says with a dark color creeping under the tan of his face. They move deeper, the time seems to stand still with the effort made wearying in the unnatural dusk the thick canopy above them makes blotting out the sunlight. Here and there shafts of golden light pierce the leaves and angle down to the ground, illuminating a solitary flower or causing the moss coat of a log to turn brilliant emerald. There is a point where the ground rises in a hummock home to a clump of spruce. It is dry and spongy with the shed needles. Gabit leads them up the incline, stopping at the top. "We can rest here." Because the arrows of light are faded now, the night creatures beginning to sing.

There's a reason why Mire hold doesn't get many visitors. Well, several of them, but the location is certainly a part of it! Tarmin's position is meant to make sure he catches anyone actually falling behind - or trying to slip away, not that any of them are foolish enough to do that. He catches the exchange between Innes and Gabit, snorts slightly - or maybe that was a swampbeast. On they travel, through the tangle of plants, until the darkness begins to fall. Tarmin nods for the resting-place that's been selected, lifting his head to regard the dimmed branches overhead. Somewhere nearby, the deep voice of something - an amphibian? - calls out. There's silence for a moment, as if the other creatures of the swamp are listening for more, and then they all join in again, avians and water-creatures alike singing to each other as the dusk and thick vegetation make it difficult to see.

As they venture on and Innes becomes more certain of herself - at least with a guide to lead her - she spends more time turned back, coaching those behind her and offering a steadying hand if someone seems liable to trip. Seeing as she's the self-declared leader of the pack, she has to worry about these kinds of things, right? "See, that's better," she replies to Gabit with a smirk. Her gaze drifts upward as she walks, studying the patches of sunlight that slip in between the leaves. Of course, with her attention turned toward the canopy she can't see the ground in front of her, and she shortly stumbles over a rock and has to trot a few paces to catch herself. No one saw that, right? With her head held high and her eyes once again searching out any obstructions, Innes follows Gabit up to what appears to be their campground for the night. She doesn't appear to be unnerved by the nighttime sounds, but she edges a little closer to her fellows… just in case they're worried, of course.

Garawan nods to the question of if he's all right, giving an affirmative grunt. "Thank you, I appreciate the concern," he offers with a smile. He's not completely all right, but he won't be until they get back to civilization. That's no fault of anyone's here, though; Garawan is simply not a creature of the wilds. Once they get up to where they appear to be about to sleep for the night, he stops, looking over the group of candidates to see if any are missing. He also sends a reassuring look to Innes. Not because /she's/ upset, mind you, just assuring her he's all right.

It's Gabit's turn to snort, but it's a gentle, almost soundless one, tempered with the ghost of a smirk at the semi-chide from Innes. He doesn't turn his head to witness Innes' stumbling, but his staff begins a swing towards her for her to gasp for balance if need be. He nods, satisfied with Garawan's answer, flicks another careful check back on the group and moves on up the incline, passing tangles of berry bushes and scattered deadwood. At the top of that hillock, under the thick boughs of the cedars is a large dead log missing all of it's bark Before it is a circle of blackened stones where the needles have been pushed back; the log will provide a reflector for the fire's heat and shelter them from the chill air of late fall's night. This place has been used as a campsite before, obviously. "We'll get a fire going if some of you will gather wood," Gabit says, shrugging out of his pack. No swamp secret fire-staring tools - simply flint and steel are removed from it and left beside the firepit as he eases to their perimeter to stare out into the gathering darkness.

If anyone falls behind - or down - enough to reach Tarmin, he'll help them. Otherwise, he simply continues on, making notes of things along the way, until they reach that campsite. The firemaking tools are brought out. No secrets - though, what about persistence and a steady hand? Oh wait, those won't be secret for long. Tarmin reaches for his own pack, bringing out a small bundle of dried leaves and picking out a few. Tinder! Also, something that'll help keep the bugs away, while it's lingering in the smoke that the log will help keep clinging around all night. He sets them near the firepit, tucked under bits of coal so they don't blow away.

Gather wood in the dark and mysterious swamp? Count Innes in! The noises of the swamp - some familiar and some not so much - have her on edge, and what better way to disguise that fact than to lead the charge in gathering firewood? "I've got it," she tells Gabit with her most charming smile. Then she turns and glances over her shoulder, her gaze shifting from candidate to candidate until it comes to rest on, "Garawan!" She gestures for him to move forward. "Come on, there's firewood that needs getting." Yes, she did just volunteer another candidate for a task again. Without waiting to see if he'll follow, she takes a deep breath and then heads back down the incline to begin searching out things that should burn.

Garawan stops with the others when their campsite for the time being is decided upon. He looks around, taking in the features of the area. Obviously if the holders from the swamp feel it's a good place it must possess multiple characteristics that are desirable. After the mention of firewood is made, Garawan opens his mouth to ask about tinder, and then some is produced. He exhales, lets the words remain unspoken. His name is called and he looks in that direction. instead of wasting time arguing though, he just follows Innes in her search.

"Remain on the hillock," advises Gabit, for 'out there' it is both soggy and dark and there's nothing dry enough to burn otherwise. Moreover, there are snuffles and grunts further out in the darkness amongst the cadence of night insects and avian calls. Gabit remains within view of both wood-collectors and berry-pickers; if they do venture further out, he will accompany them, watchful. There's a meal of dried jerky and berries, a warm fire and low-voiced conversation before people drift off. They won't freeze. But the temperatures will dip enough for things to be uncomfortable by morning with frost rimmed puddles giving evidence in the dawn's light that winter is not far off. Three more days of this. Yay?

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