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After the Torching

Writers: Estelle, Miriah, Yvonne
Date Posted: 20th November 2021

Characters: Alina, J'ackt, Alyena, Evalya
Description: Alina and J'ackt check on R'ayl's family
Location: Dolphin Cove Weyr, Emerald Falls Hold
Date: month 9, day 17 of Turn 10
Notes: Mentioned: N'vanik, Talryne, R'ayl, Cyradis


Alina
Alina
J'ackt
J'ackt

Alina sat with Imarith around her, crooning softly as they gazed over
the frightened Weyr.

Poisoned meat. _Poisoned_. And the weyrlings... apparently it was just
one blue who'd eaten the meat before the dragons had alerted them to
the treachery, but one was enough. Too much.

She wondered what J'ackt was feeling. He'd sworn to N'vanik that he'd
protect the Weyr and then _this_ had happened. Alina kept thinking she
ought to have Imarith reach out to Zith to check on her weyrmate, but
he would be so busy with the Weyrleaders and dealing with what went
wrong that she suspected that he wouldn't appreciate the interruption.
Perhaps this was how Talryne felt, waiting for N'vanik... only Alina
had Imarith to comfort her, and Talryne had nobody.

The door burst open and J'ackt strode in, face grim. "Get your flight
jacket on. I need you." He strode to the closet, grabbing his own.
He adjusted his sword on his hip before slipping on the jacket. "And
strap on your dagger. "

"My-- what?" Alina scrambled to her feet as Imarith looked around in
alarm. "What's going on?"

"R'ayl's cothold. His family might be in danger and they need to be
checked on. N'vanik and Cyradis are busy and another bronzerider with
me might scare them too much, but I shouldn't go by myself. A
greenrider won't and I trust you." He strode to her and gripped her
shoulders, "but whatever happens, you listen to me when we get there.
I need you to watch my back. Just in case."

She nodded, her eyes wide, then slipped from his fingers to find her
jacket and dagger. For whatever good it would do her... sometimes
J'ackt coaxed her into practicing with it, but Alina knew she wasn't
any good with weapons. Some of her fear leaked through to Imarith and
by the time she'd finished throwing straps on her dragon the green's
eyes were whirling with concern.

"I'm ready," she said, swinging her leg over Imarith's neck. "What--
where is... who is R'ayel?"

"R'ayl." J'ackt's jaw was tight as he threw his straps and adjusted
them on Zith, whose eyes were whirling with hints of yellow and red.
"Grevan's brother. He was Searched and brought here but didn't tell
his mother. We didn't know who he was either. It was his hatchling
that was poisoned." His lips thinned. "His mother gave me the
information that something would be happening. We need to make sure
that she's okay. I don't know if he was a part of this or not, but that
woman helped us."

Alina's mouth formed a little 'o' in surprise. Then she nodded. "Send
the coordinates to Imarith and we'll follow you." With that, Imarith
leaped off the ledge and the green began to gain altitude. Alina's
thoughts were a tangled mess. Grevan's brother, it was _his_ dragon--
had he poisoned his own dragon?! His mother-- none of it made sense.
She shook her head and decided to trust J'ackt until he could fill her
in properly later.

Zith followed her into the air the moment J'ackt's straps were
buckled; he sent the visualization to the green, made sure that she
understood, then blinked /between/.

The moment they emerged, smoke filled Zith's nostrils, making him
snort in response while J'ackt's gut clenched. He recognized the scent
of a burning home, how could he not? He'd set such a fire once, turns
ago. Gritting his teeth, he looked down and snarled. The small
cothold was still burning and casting its heat upwards. He swung his
head towards Alina's Imarith. **Tell her to stay aloft and keep an eye
out. I've got to check and see if they were in there.**

Zith relayed the message and banked to land carefully. J'ackt slid
down before Zith was fully settled, running towards the cothold.

"Be careful!" Alina's words were snatched by the wind, leaving her
breathless as she strained to watch her weyrmate run into danger. She
tore her gaze from his silhouette and gripped her riding straps
tightly as Imarith circled low over the fields, her wings stirring the
tall grasses and leaves on trees as she passed. Her heart slammed
against her chest as the scent of smoke filled the air. He'd be all
right. J'ackt was smart and strong and deadly with his sword-- and
he'd come back to her once the night was over. Alina grit her teeth.
He'd be fine, or she'd murder him herself.

**}There-- I see something~:{ Imarith said suddenly.

The heat from the smouldering fire made J'ackt choke and wheeze, but
he saw no bodies, nor did he scent the smell of burning flesh,
something that remained in his memories from his youth. They hadn't
been in there; Faranth, he hoped that he was right.

Zith jerked his head up at Imarith's message. }: Where? What is it?
What do you smell? I can't smell much besides smoke. Mine! Come out!:{

Alina settled herself more securely on her dragon's back and let her
focus drift as she looked through Imarith's eyes. **A path through a
field,** she said, Imarith relaying the information to Zith as she
spoke. **People don't run through the middle of planted fields and
flatten the crop.**

Zith immediately relayed the images to J'ackt, who turned and
immediately went in the indicated direction, his eyes scanning the
ground. Initially one adult set of prints followed by a smaller, much
lighter. Alyena and her daughter, surely. He moved as quickly as he
could, eyes scanning the ground; before he found the trees, he saw
another set of footprints, large sized...a man's. His lips thinned.
**Zith, they went this way, but they were followed. Have Imarith scan
through the trees and circle in this direction. See if she can scent
anything, see anything. Go up with her. You know their scent.**

}: I can not leave you.:{ Zith protested.

**You can't get through the trees. But you can help her look. Now go!**

Hissing with complaint, Zith leaped into the air and joined Imarith,
his eyes never leaving his rider.

***

Alyena crouched in the shelter of a clump of spiky undergrowth around
the base of a tree trunk, her daughter huddled close to her. She
listened intently, straining to hear any sound other than the soft
rustle of the wind in the trees and the chirping of insects. Every
moment that passed it grew darker, easier to hide. Perhaps they'd give
up the search, thinking she'd be on the road to the Hold.

Then, nearby, she heard a twig snap.

Evalya gripped her hand tightly. The two of them held their breath,
terrified and still. The silence seemed to last forever.

"I know you're here." The voice was a low growl, with an undercurrent of
barely suppressed rage. "You left a trail. Did you think we wouldn't
find out that you talked? The dragon was seen." There was a sharp swish
of air, and Alyena realized with cold shock that the man was slashing
with a weapon at the thorny bushes that hid them. "How much did they pay
you to betray your own people? Your dead son?"

Slowly, she reached into the pocket of her coat, her fingers closing
around the handle of the kitchen knife. Her heart hammered in her chest.
He was so close, she could hear his heavy breathing and the crunch of
leaves under his boot. The blade whistled past, close to their heads,
and this time Evalya couldn't suppress a whimper of fear.

The man shouted in triumph and Alyena looked up, seeing the dark figure
looming over them. **He'll hurt my daughter!** Before she could think,
she rose from their hiding place and stabbed wildly at him with the knife.

He grunted and stumbled back, pressing a hand to his side that came away
bloody. "Dragonloving bitch!" She had only a moment to realize that
she'd only grazed him before he struck with the back of his hand,
knocking her flying. The pain was shocking and intense, the whole side
of her face was in agony and she'd lost her grip on the knife. She
scrabbled in the dirt for it, trying to crawl away, draw him away from
Evalya, but then a knee slammed into her side and she felt fingers
closing around her throat.

"You'll pay for that," the man spat, his face contorted into an ugly
mask of hatred. His grip tightened. Choking, Alyena tried to tear at his
hands with her nails, but she could already feel her strength ebbing,
her vision starting to turn foggy. "I'll cut you to pieces, you
treacherous snake!" She dimly saw the flash of the blade, and heard
Evalya screaming at the top of her voice.

"Mama! MAMAAA!"

Branches splintered as something very large crashed through the canopy
and landed in the spiky undergrowth. Imarith roared and mantled her
wings as best she could between the tree trunks. Her rider leaped from
her seat and stumbled as bracken and thorns wrapped around her boots
and clawed her leather riding pants. Her numb fingers closed around
the dagger at her hip. J'ackt would be furious, but there was no way
she could ignore a baby's terrified wail and wait for her weyrmate to
arrive on foot.

Alyena gasped in a hoarse breath as the grip on her throat loosened. The
man dropped her, spitting a curse, and backed away. Looking up, she saw
a huge dark shape, eyes glowing and claws raking the tangled
undergrowth, and heard her daughter's scream turn incoherent with fear.
The roar rang in her ears. A dragon.

She crawled over to Evalya and wrapped her arms tightly around her,
pressing the girl's head close, wondering if they were about to be torn
apart. The man could flee, but they couldn't. But when she looked up,
she saw him standing his ground, a malicious grin twisting his features.

"A girl. The Weyr's sent a girl for you." He stepped forward, his blade,
a heavy guardsman's sword, raised, and Alyena saw what he did, that the
dragon couldn't easily get at them through the trees. "But when I deal
with her, that gets rid of the beast as well. It isn't what was planned,
but it'll do."

}: Imarith! Get Yours and get back in the air right _now_! :{ The
bronze overhead felt immediately helpless; there was no room for him
to land and he felt his rider's instant fright and rage at the
situation. }: It is not safe!:{ Upon his rider's rushed command, the
bronze roared and sent for the aid that had been supposed to arrive
with them, but J'ackt had been too impatient to wait for.

There was a crash in the woods and pounding footsteps as J'ackt
emerged, face scratched by his rush towards the outburst of noise. The
image that he had been sent had spurred him past caution and good
sense, forcing him to tear through the underbrush with frantic haste.
He saw a flash of a blade, saw the familiar figure of his weyrmate in
front of the shadowed figure of her struggling dragon and with a
snarl, burst forward, full-body tackling the man who was the threat.

Four other dragons, blues and greens that had been instructed to help
him, appeared with a blast of cold hair from /between/. Zith wasted no
time in directing them. }: Spread out! There may be more men! We need
to get the woman and girl out! :{

The holder man bellowed in fury and surprise as the rush bore them both
to the ground and he lost his grip on the blade, sending it skittering
out of his reach towards Alina. He dragged himself to his knees and
forward, arm outstretched, reaching for the hilt.

J'ackt scrambled forward and balling up his fist, struck the man
quickly across the jaw, bearing down on him with his full weight.
Gritting his teeth, he wrapped his forearm around the man's neck,
tucked the inside of his elbow right under the man's chin and
squeezed.

Alina froze as the two men struggled before her. Her heart pounded
furiously in her chest as she briefly locked eyes with her weyrmate.
**Please don't die,** she thought desperately, then bent and threw the
sword as hard as she could into the darkness. It hit a tree and fell
into the underbrush with a crackle she barely heard as she turned and
ran to where the woman knelt with her child. "Please-- come with me!"

The holder woman hesitated, glancing towards the dragon, but then rose,
drawing in a hissed breath at the pain of the bruises, and helped her
daughter to stand. "Her ankle is hurt. She can't walk..."

"Will she let me carry her?" Alina looked down at the girl and tried to
give her a reassuring smile. "Sweetheart, will you let me carry you?"

The girl looked uncertainly up at her mother. Behind them, the man
snarled in rage and thrashed, trying to throw off J'ackt, but his voice
was choked and his struggles were becoming weaker. Alyena didn't want
her daughter to see the end, and she only hesitated briefly
before nodding.

Alina swept the child into her arms. "Hide your eyes, sweetheart," she
said quietly, then dashed back toward where Imarith stood waiting in
the trees. If she could get the child and her mother onto her dragon,
they'd be safe. Safer.

As the women hurried out of sight, J'ackt snarled at the man. "I
should kill you. Faranth, I wouldn't care if I did. You'd deserve to
rot out here. But..." He applied pressure just below the man's ear and
within a moment, he felt the man go slack and limp. "I think you're
more valuable alive." Tired, he slowly let his arms relax, and felt
the muscles cramp. He shook his arm and got up, but didn't resist the
urge to treat the man to a few more blows to the jaw. Satisfied as
teeth spilled out along with bloody spittle, he bent to drag the man
towards a clearing. }:Zith! Get one of those other greens or a blue
to scoop this man up and take him immediately to N'vanik.:{

As the green dragon took to the skies, scattering leaves and broken
branches in her wake, Alyena looked down beyond the wood to where the
cothold still blazed, sending up clouds of ash and smoke into the night
air. Beyond, other wings were dark against the moonlit sky, other
dragons circling, hunting.

"It's going to be all right," she whispered to Evalya, holding her close
and wishing she could believe it. Below them was the ruin of their home,
and now they were holdless.

.One of the other blues landed just long enough to scoop the
unconscious man into his talons and left immediately into the air,
hauling the man to the Weyr. J'ackt looked up, saw Imarith and waved
briefly before headed to where Zith impatiently waited on him. The
bronze stared down at his rider. }: You're going to be in trouble when
we get back. You shouldn't have done that. :{

**I'll deal with it when we get back.** J'ackt climbed wearily up to
settle on Zith's neck to strap in. **Lets go.**

Last updated on the February 10th 2022


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