IC Date Reference: Set the morning after the Cavern explosion.
As the dust settled and the ominous silence around the Caverns grew, it felt like a farce to claim that business was resuming as normal. It felt as though there were an ominous silence underpinning the Weyr. It seemed devoid of its usual hustle and bustle, the normal sounds of chatter echoing around the walls seemed to be absent. After several days absence, Dytha was back in the Infirmary. Life went on for everyone. The bruising on her face was fading to an ugly yellowish green and the swelling had gone down. She hadn’t missed the questioning glances from the side of her eye but hadn’t gone into the facts. Hadn’t wanted to give the bluerider any more attention than he had already had.
Sighing as she checked the roster for her duties, Dytha had gotten on with work. But she was distracted, a part of her thoughts on permanent hyper vigilance as she kept a part of her mind on alert for Ponth. The green had been subdued and quiet, reluctant to leave her ledge or had taken to sleeping on Vukoth’s despite the bronze’s absence. R’bor wouldn’t be coming back from High Reaches for a while. In his last correspondence, she had felt the excitement coming through the words that the Weyr had asked if he would be interested in taking part in an extended training program and if so, could send a temporary Rider to Arolos as a form of “exchange” with the view of potentially taking training tips back from each respective Weyr. Nayari had already signed off on it. So how could she say no? So instead, she had written words that conveyed a gladnes she did not feel, did not mention H’lan and had told R’bor that he was to stay for as long as he needed. Ponth had been heartbroken to learn that Vukoth would not be returning any time soon, a further blow to her confidence. And now… this. Shells, she was starting to believe some of the whispers that Arolos was bad luck.
But work needed to be done. And work she did. Quietly and studiously getting on with the many things that she needed to do.
Meanwhile in the Hatching Grounds Talith was also doing the work he needed to do; work that would more normally be done by a mothering gold. Carefully, gently, he turned each of the eggs he had taken to guard, moving slowly as he worked by touch alone. He would not risk injuring another.
Last of all he nudged around the one that had fallen. He dared not try moving that one, he couldn’t feel how broken it might be. He crooned to it instead, a soft sad song of love to help a lost child hang on a little longer.
She had deliberately volunteered for the monotonous task of jarring up the fresh batch of numbweed. It was mindless and she needed that. It made it easier both not to think and to keep a mental eye on Ponth. The small green was curled up in a deflated ball on their ledge, nose drooping over the edge and down towards the Weyrbowl. There was a cloud of sadness clinging to the Weyr and in the dragons. It was hard for it not to at least leak between the gap of a dragon and rider.
In the Infirmary, Dytha sighed for the thousandth time, feeling the dribbles of Ponth’s morose mood. She could only imagine how the Riders of the dragons in the Caverns were feeling. And at the same time, didn’t want to.
Gently Talith tried to at least shift the sands around the egg, worried that if they stayed too long the Hatchling might be entirely cooked. The sand blew away at a snort to be replaced by fresh sand.
One piece did not. He nudged it, blew on it and then even licked it to stop it sticking to the egg.
It was not sticking to the egg. It was stuck into the egg.
((‘TAL!)) Louder than intended and sharp with alarm. R’tal was not leaving the Caverns much at the moment. Purest bad luck that one of the few times he did have to do so briefly Talith should find this.
The exclamation caught Ponth’s attention and immediately she lifted her head, staring in the direction of the Caverns. That… did not sound right. Dytha felt the prickle of attention and started listening to whatever Ponth was doing. (( Talith? )) She enquired carefully, her mind-voice weary with fatigue from her still healing wings.
He had not meant to catch attention, not this time. ((I was calling for R’tal,)) Talith excused himself a little sulkily. He hadn’t been talking to anyone since.. Well, since everything.
Ponth though. Didn’t Ponth’s rider work with K’ren? ((Is he in the Infirmary?))
Her mind-voice was immediately demurely respectful. She did not want to intrude, understood if perhaps the dragon was feeling the need for solitude. (( I do not know. But I can ask Mine. She would be able to find out. ))
Listening in, Dytha was immediately both suspicious and on alert. (( Ask if he needs a Dragonhealer. )) There was no room for negotiation and although Ponth was puzzled, acquiesced. (( Mine asks if you need a Dragonhealer. She is one. She shall be marvellous when she finishes all of her work on the eggs. ))
((My eyes are fine!)) The answer was immediate and defensive and so utterly random it seemed to be plucked from the air.
Now Ponth was a little suspicious and above all that, she was concerned. And in her soft voice, it showed. (( I did not mean to suggest that they weren’t. But I think Mine was worried for you. She will look for R’tal for you… )) The green paused, weighing the strangeness of the situation. And took the plunge. (( If it is the eggs… Mine could look… she is studying all the things to make sure they hatch… ))
((No-one is meant to come in to look at the eggs.)) Talith sounded how he felt; fretful, and worried, and clinging to the things he knew. He hesitated, not daring nudge at the egg again. ((...but she should talk to ‘tal.))
(( She is not a Candidate curious about them. She is a Healer first and foremost. She is not interested in satisfying idle curiosity. She just wants to be sure all is well. )) It was a firm but gentle reminder, even as Dytha was getting up to her feet in search of the brown’s Rider. Something was afoot and it was prickling at both her concern and her curiosity.
Which Ponth murmured her platitudes. Dytha was headed in the direction of K’ren’s office. If she was going to start somewhere, there was as good a place as any. Instead, she spotted the brownrider coming out of the Weyrwoman’s room. Eh, second guess worked just as well. “Weyrleader R’tal. Do you have a moment?” Dytha waved a hand to catch the man’s eye.
The man looked as though he’d aged a few turns over the past few days. There was an urgency in his step, door closing briskly behind him as he left Kassia’s room. He glanced at Dytha and over her, seeing her without really seeing her. Everyone wanted his attention right now. “I’m sorry, I don’t -- I need to get back to--” To Talith, whose yelp had reached him and pulled him away from where he’d been waiting for Kassia to wake up. “--I have to check something on the Hatching Grounds, sorry.”
“I think something is going on either with Talith or with the eggs. He caught Ponth’s attention and now he’s being evasive.” Her voice was the familiar brusque clip of a Healer in action. “Now, I understand the concern you have but I am a Dragonhealer and would be happy to attend if necessary.” She could see the frazzled and distracted look on the man’s face. It was important for him to recognise that she wasn’t there to express sympathies or make mindless chatter. She was all business.
“Master Larsin is seeing to him already.” Same assumption Talith had had, that it was the dragon that was the immediate concern. “I’m sorry, I can walk and talk, but really, I can’t stop.” He was cursing himself already for having slipped out and left his brown at all, but Talith had been asleep.
“And if it involves a concern with the eggs, my name will be top of the list who Master Larsin calls for. Just as it was when I was assisting with the eggs after Razelth’s Hatching.” It wasn’t a brag, it was stated in calm matter of fact honesty. In fact the only reason she likely hadn’t been called for already was because of Larsin’s awareness of her being off-duty to recover from her injuries. She was well aware of the picture she made, Senior Apprentice knots, yellowing bruises on her face and awkward posture as she shifted on already aching feet. “I appreciate that your first concern will be Talith much as my own would be for Ponth. But at the moment, he is part of a double equation and the eggs will immediately come into it.”
“I’m sorry, DragonHealer.” And R’tal was trying to stay polite for K’ren’s sake, as he always at least attempted to be polite to Infirmary staff. If he hadn’t at least been trying, she would have been Senior Apprentice and curtly dismissed and no two ways about it. Still, his tone sharpened. “The truth of the matter is I don’t know what the problem is right now, do you understand? I can make a few guesses but what I have now is an upset dragon who lost eight sharding eggs less than a sevenday ago and no, I am not pausing to discuss before I check on him!” He was walking as he spoke; Dytha would have to keep up.
Inwardly she sighed. And this was why she preferred dealing with dragons. People could be… messy. There wasn’t a chance she was going to keep match with his long stride but she would and could follow. And follow she did. She would stand outside the Caverns if she had to, but she wasn’t going to go anywhere without being sure. Larsin would have her head if she let it slide by. Had it been any other day she wouldn’t even have gotten involved. But it wasn’t any other day. So there she was, limping awkwardly across the Weyrbowl in a vain attempt to keep up with the man. But she wasn’t going anywhere. Not until she knew for certain.
She was over ten minutes behind him, which was ten minutes where R’tal moved up to a jog feeling Talith’s distress and needing to get to him. The guards didn’t question letting him through, though Dytha would certainly have been stopped behind.
Ten minutes of reassuring his dragon, promising him it likely wasn’t that bad and then trying to make it not that bad through his own eyes when he saw it. And wanting to pull it out, and not daring to, wanting to fix it and not knowing how, wanting to bury it again and make it go away or at least just look really surprised at Hatching as though if he didn’t know about it it maybe hadn’t happened..
Sometimes being responsible was really rough.
He was waiting with the guards when Dytha finally caught up, face set like stone.
It was probably a good thing she was stubborn. And not easily ruffled. Perhaps a more junior Apprentice might have been set on edge at seeing the stony grimace of the Weyrleader’s face. For her, it set a needle of anticipation beneath her skin as her instincts kicked in. Something was wrong. All she did was incline her head politely as she got there, eyeing the guards carefully. Now he would either tell her to go away, fetch Larsin or tell her what was really going on. Because her Healer sense was buzzing a tattoo.
The hand on her shoulder was a firm one -- not unkind, just establishing that she didn’t get to rush in. “If you come in--” R’tal was still hesitating as he said it. A secret shared was no longer a secret. “If any of what you see gets talked about in the Weyr.” The guards he trusted, guards were different. Everyone else was less so.
R’tal wouldn’t have known that under his grip was a still healing bite mark, one that had broken the skin viciously and she resisted the shrieking urge to abruptly jostle his hand away. Instead her face tightened, an expression that might be mistaken for severity or solemn understanding. Inwardly she clenched her jaw, biting down against the sharp throb from the pressure. “Understood, sir. Nothing will come from me. Or Ponth.” It was hard not to take a little offence at what felt like an assumption that she would run gossiping. But that was what youth and lower rank got you.
“Right.” He released her, nodding to the guards to let her through and led her through to where Talith was waiting, pads still covering and protecting the brown dragon’s injured eyes.
It was hard to force a “normal” gait but for the sort distance, she managed to effect something close to it. And followed.
“It’s not his fault.” And if that was the first, fiercely protective statement out of R’tal’s mouth it probably was somehow, somewhere along the line, Talith’s fault. “Some of the eggs got broken but-- we thought this one would be okay. They weren’t moving it so it would be safe.”
“No one said it was. Or assumed it. Tell me what you’ve seen.” Dytha had a suspicion that the man’s defensiveness was only magnified tenfold by the fact that those pads wrapped around his eyes meant he was running on instinct and his Rider’s eyes. And people were quick to make judgements.
“There’s something-- it had a crack.” R’tal waved a hand in the air, trying to describe. “It was in the top and it wasn’t-- it was just a little one so we thought it would be safe, that maybe nothing could escape? And they haven’t been moving it as much so it can’t leak.”
That was… about as helpful as she could expect. She wasn’t surprised. The man probably had a mountain of issues on his plate as it was. “What was in the top?” At least she had confirmed that they were talking about eggs. Or rather, an egg. “Not moving it is good. They did the right thing. And if it was in the top, as bad as it sounds, that might actually be better. By now there will be less egg fluid and it will be collecting towards the bottom leaving an air pocket at the top.”
“Right. That’s what we thought.” More or less anyway. Possibly more tilted towards ‘egg fluid is liquid and more of it in the egg is good’ but hey. “But now -- he thought it was just sand sticking to it but-- there’s like a stone? And it can’t-- it doesn’t come free.”
Hmm. That sounded less good and the darkening of her eyes gave away the sliver of concern. “It’s pierced the shell? My suspicion would be that it fell from the roof. So you can reassure Talith that it’s unlikely to be his fault. But, I need to see it to assess the damage and get an idea of what we need to do. And I’m going to be blunt here. Piercing the shell means we don’t know what damage has been done. Or if the egg will hatch. But you can be sharding sure that I’m going to check it over from top to bottom to check its viability.”
R’tal took a deep relieved breath at that first statement. Heartless perhaps, and a thought to be shielded even from his dragon that the egg was important less for itself and far more that it must not be one more thing to hurt Talith. Not right now. “Over here then,” he said, leading her past the brown towards what on first appearances was still mostly a heap of sand. They’d done a good job hiding it.
Obediently she followed. Already she was assessing the brown’s body language, gauging how hard it would be to let her get a look. And mentally assessing what she was going to need from the Infirmary. Her mind was already jumping through twenty different possibilities of what she was going to see. And with each possibility, she was bracing herself for the worst possible outcome. She could see the mound that at first, just looked like a lump of sand but as they drew closer, could see that it was indeed an egg. Albeit one almost totally obscured by sand.
Talith’s head came to rest on the Sands next to her as she looked. Indeed, for a moment it seemed it would come to rest on top of her; the brown corrected only at the last moment for the fact that his rider’s eyes did not put her where he expected her to be. ((He’s still in there.)) He sounded certain.
“Okay. I’m going to need a large basket of glows. And a smaller empty one about the size of an inflated skin ball. There’s also going to be a firelizard here in a minute bringing me some things.” Dytha’s clipped voice wasn’t rude. Just professional. She wasn’t here to coo over the eggs. She was here to work. She looked up at Talith as the head came down to land beside her. “Hullo Talith. I’m Ponth’s. I’m not here to hurt, I just want to look first. And then we will decide what needs to be done. But the important thing here is that from what I’ve been told, this wasn’t your fault.” Dytha didn’t doubt that there was a chance that the brown knew that the hatchling was still alive. Dragons spoke with their mind and being this close to the hatching, surely the dragonets were communicating with one another, if not the outside world directly.
She looked over at R’tal before glancing back to Talith. “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to take a look now but I’m not going to use my hands too much if I can help it. I have things that can help me with the sand. But for the moment I just need you to stay where you are, okay?”
“He’ll stay.” R’tal spoke for his dragon. “But I have a feeling Foreth already barred all firelizards from here. Or one of the golds did.” He couldn’t remember if he’d suggested it or if it had just happened. He scratched his head, thinking. “Get the firelizard to leave stuff with the guards. One of them will run it over if I ask.”
She nodded, already Ponth was jostling Mimsi awake and the firelizard was grabbing the bags that Ponth knew Dytha needed. One was a standard Infirmary kit. The other was a kit she was developing out of her own paltry wages. “She’ll be here in just a minute. Have them be ready for her. She’ll need to make a couple of runs. They’ll receive a Healer bag, what looks like a small camping roll and likely another small bag.” Mimsi could be lazy most of the time but she knew how to move when it was needed. She could feel the green’s impatient fidgeting in the back of her thoughts as she grabbed at the things she needed.
Sure enough, the green would be making the first pass just as the Guard appeared at the Cavern mouth and would have the bags almost thrust at him each time the firelizard reappeared. Just as Dytha predicted, the man would bring back a Healer bag, a small camping type roll and another smaller bag.
It was a quick jog there and back for R’tal and once back he stayed by his dragon, keeping a sharp protective eye on Talith - far more of a watch than he was keeping on Dytha. Occasionally Talith hummed dissatisfaction with this arrangement and he switched to watching her for the sake of the dragon sharing his eyes but always his gaze returned to Talith.
The other guard had been hastily dispatched for the glow baskets and mats and Dytha didn’t have to wait long for him to arrive just as she was unrolling the “camping roll”. It wasn’t sleeping blankets but what it did have was a large selection of brushes, some big enough that they looked like those used to clean the flues in the kitchens whereas others were as small and fine as a Harper’s fine point detail brush. As the mats arrived, she shook it out, knelt down and set to work. She had been honest that she wasn’t intending on touching the egg. That was what the brushes were for, deftly flicking away the sand as more and more shell was uncovered and then… “I see it.”
It was to all intents and purposes a large stone splinter. Albeit one that was sticking out of the top of the shell. And had most definitely penetrated it. But to what depth? This was where she needed the glows. She had already set them up to give her a bright work space but now she decanted several into the smaller basket and after pulling on a pair of cotton gloves, carefully lifted the open basket top against the side of the shell, beneath the stone shard that protruded from it. The effect would be immediate. The shell was illuminated and two things became immediately apparent. The shadowy shape of a shifting dragonet and from where it had pierced, the long thin shadow of the stony dart.
Dytha glanced up at R’tal. “You see what I’m looking at? So we can see it’s gone in. And deep. But for the most part, it seems to be away from major body parts and more towards the head. And Talith was right, he… or she… is still in there.”
R’tal looked and then just as quickly looked away, remembering the partner who shared his eyes. Talith had already had too much to see of late.
Talith most certainly disagreed. It earned a rumble from the brown dragon, accompanied by a mental protest that made his rider wince.
“Look, I just don’t think you--”
If Talith could have glared at him he would. As it was he made an angry noise, frustrated by his own inability to just look for himself.
“Letting him see will likely help his feeling of helplessness. Think how you’d feel if you were in the same position. Talith already feels terrible that his sight has been taken away. He needs to know what I’m doing to his egg.” It was an almost absent-minded comment that drifted over Dytha’s shoulder as she moved the glow basket around the egg, applying careful pressure to keep it in place. But as she moved, the egg was illuminated from a different angle but sure enough, the moving dragonet was still visible, twitching a little as though having a dream.
“I’ve found the stone, Talith. It looks just like the stone you see on the ceiling. I think it fell down. It was just bad luck that this one was in its path when it did, but you didn’t do this. I don’t know that the hatchling inside hasn’t been hurt at all by it. I can’t promise that. But I can see that it’s not touching the hatchling directly at the moment. But you did the right thing by not trying to pull it out. I can see where some of the interior fluid has hardened on the outside from the heat. When it does, it makes a type of lacquer. It’s holding it in place and pulling it out might risk breaking the shell. And I’m not going to do that.” Dytha paused, now looking at Talith. “I’ve got an idea - it’s a bit radical as it’s not so much a fix as it is a… bandage. But we can’t take it out. All we can do is wait and see what happens when they Hatch. But in the mean time, I can do something to stop it going in further and also stop it pulling at the shell. So you need to trust me.”
It was with great reluctance that R’tal conceded, crouching finally so that Talith could see what he wanted. It turned the brown dragon’s growls to soft croons, almost cooing over the visible baby.
((My brave boy.)) Talith at least seemed certain on the gender. He huffed a breath over the egg, close to touching but not quite. ((He slipped.))
She took the lack of response as either agreement or wanting to hear more. So she went with the latter. “I need a bucket of wet clay. I’m going to carefully pack a layer around the spike and down part of the shell. The heat from the Cavern will bake it in place but clay also holds heat so it shouldn’t provide an unusual hot or cold spot. Think of it a bit like filling a hole in a wall. The egg will need to stay upright with the spike on top but it can be rotated carefully. Right now not pushing that spike in is more of a concern than rotating it in the sand.”
“They should be close to Hatching anyway, shouldn’t they?” Despite Talith’s urging, looking was clearly an effort for R’tal. He looked above or to the side of the splinter, trying to keep it only in his peripheral vision. Looking at the dragonet for Talith was fine, he could handle that but he couldn’t, wouldn’t keep his gaze on the broken bit.
“Judging by the shell density and texture alone, I’d say yes.” She replied, pulling the basket away and the illuminated dragonet inside fell into darkness once more. “It’s also caused limited damage around the puncture site so I would speculate that it was a pointed piece and the speed of it falling caused a clean entry. There’s some minimal cracking surrounding it but ironically, the egg fluid that did leak has likely caused an impromptu seal.” Dytha stepped back, looking over the egg but on the whole seemed more or less satisfied. Well, as satisfied as you could be in the situation. “If someone can get me that clay, I can make up the support layer. Get them to bring a bucket of water too so I can make it into a paste and keep it as a thin layer. Should prevent too much weight build up that way too.”
“I’ll get the guards to send someone.” The guards were getting used to needing to find an errand boy. Talith had been subdued and unwilling to pass messages since the accident. “Will the Infirmary have it?”
“They should. We use it in a variety of treatments.” Perhaps not the most pleasant of ones, but the minerals in it were effective. “If not, the kitchens will for clay baking meats and so on.” She wanted this done. Dytha was fast realising that being in the Caverns, surrounded by injured dragons and the echoes of destroyed eggs wasn’t sitting well with her. “As soon as it’s done, it’ll just need to be monitored to ensure it’s set and it will be able to be carefully rotated around in its divot, just not rotated from top to bottom.”
“They weren’t turning it top to bottom anyway, because of the crack.” That was why it was over here on its own, rather than with the ones the dragons were sitting like huge protective mother wherries. “Right. I’ll sort it.”
He hurried away. Talith stayed where he was, unable to still see the egg now but still able to hum to it.
The clay and bucket of water arrived quickly. No sooner had it arrived, Dytha set to work. It was a delicate procedure and the time seemed to move past as though through tar. Careful mixes of watered down clay were pasted around the base of the spike within the egg, even more careful were the gloved hands that smoothed it down. It seemed to take an age. Constantly she would move, getting up to walk around the egg or lifting the glow basket against it once more to ensure the stone shard hadn’t been pushed in any deeper. Handful after handful was applied and smoothed down, spreading out from the shard in thin, built upon layers. Eventually, it looked more like a piece of stone caught in a lump of muddy, fresh turned soil before it faded into the colours of the egg further down. Finally though, she got to her feet and stepped back, inspecting her handiwork with a critical eye.
“The clay is already hardening. It should be fully set in around a half candlemark in this heat. If it looks like it’s starting to peel, you can lightly spray it with a bit of water. But the shard in it shouldn’t move. If it feels like it’s coming loose before hatching, have Talith call Ponth. But that’s about all I can do. All we can do now… is wait.”
Nutmeg on the Wizzy.
Recluso#6042 on Discord
I'm sometimes slow and have the memory of a sieve at times, so don't hesitate to poke me if you think you've been forgotten!