IC Date Reference: Set immediately after the events of Greenflight: A dastardly concoction of intent”.
By the time she finally awoke, the hot afternoon was beginning to shift into the cooler evening. The room was quiet and empty. Clearly no one had come in yet to clean it. The throbbing bite of gnawing pain was almost immediately apparent as she carefully sat up. But none of that mattered. Her thoughts scrabbled immediately to Ponth, probing for the green’s whereabouts.
(( He isn’t here! )) Came the plaintive wail, filled with misery. (( Neither of them are! I looked and couldn’t find them! ))
Oh… shells. No, no they weren’t. He had told her only the day before. R’bor and Vukoth had gone to High Reaches for several days for a training regime he had been invited to take part in. It had been something right up his alley and he had been desperate to go. She had reassured him they would be fine. )) Shh, dearest. It’s okay. Where are you now? ((
(( I was able to get away… eventually. It made me hurt. And Vukoth wasn’t here. So I came home… ))
((I’m coming dear one, can you call Mendl for me? Tell her to meet us there. Be patient for me, I’ll be as quick as I can. (( With a grimace, she pulled her shirt back on, wincing at the scrapes on her spine from the wall’s rough surface. She wanted to sprint across the Weyr as fast as she could, but all she would be able to manage was a pained hobble. Already she could feel that the side of her mouth was beginning to swell. She would send Mimsi for ice, but first, Ponth.
The green was curled in a small ball of miserable hide on her ledge as Hers bespoke and reassured her. Many of the lacerations about her shoulders and flanks had reopened as she struggled away from the blue, dribbles of ichor standing out in macabre fashion against her dark hide. Her wings still ached and her neck was sore from where the blue had wrapped his own about her to keep her from struggling. When she reached out to the Candidate, her normally buoyant voice was as close to a sob as a dragon could muster. (( Mend-a-lee, you must come. Mine says you must come to our ledge and help us! ))
It felt as though it had taken an age, but finally she was climbing the familar tunnel to her own weyr. Heedless of her own pain, of the bone deep throbbing that felt as though it covered her from head to foot, of the sharp spikes of pain with every step that pierced her feet, Dytha went immediately to Ponth, cradling the dark green head as it was thrust into her arms with a mournful bugle “Tell me where it hurts, darling, we need to take care of you first.”
(( Everywhere… )) Came the miserable voice. (( It hurts… everywhere… ))
Mendl’s head jerked up at Ponth’s call. Something was wrong, something bad. Eysis shrieked and went between, hearing Ponth in Mendl’s head. If the dragonhealer had been unsure before, about anything wrong, well now there was no doubt. Even her little green knew something was wrong.
Quickly she gathered healing supplies. Maybe she wouldn’t need them, but better safe than sorry. At least Ponth was relatively small for a dragon, but she still stuffed loads of items into her knapsack. Eysis came back and looked approvingly on. She must have gone to check on the green.
It felt like it took her forever to get to Dytha’s weyr, and when she did she gasped. Both rider and dragon looked like they’d been attacked. Who would do this to them? Why? How?
“Who the feck did this to you?” she said, normally medium-range voice gutteral in anger. She immediately got a bucket of water from Dytha’s bathing pool--still showing signs of a recent bath--and got water to wash Ponth’s many wounds.
Dytha barely looked up at Mendl’s arrival. It couldn’t be anyone else. No one else knew she was there. Still cradling Ponth’s head her arms, she rubbed the green’s eyeridges, trying to soothe the dragon as best she could. “Bastard feckin’ bluerider,” she growled, pressing her cheek to Ponth’s hide. “I’ll explain in a bit. I don’t want Ponth going to the Infirmary. Too many questions. I need…” Dytha paused, her breath shuddering free from her. “I need you to help me clean her up as best we can. I don’t think she’ll need real stitching, maybe some minor suturing…” The green’s pained groans made her wince. “Feckin’ flights.” It was a bitter growl of sound but the dismay was written all over her face.
Shards, she didn’t know where her own pain ended and Ponth’s began. Her mind itself felt as though it were throbbing with the blurred lines. She didn’t remember it being like this since Ponth had been a small hatchling and had been unconsciously reflecting her own pain back at her.
“I’ve brought enough supplies that I can get her mostly patched up now,” Mendl said, adding some redwort to the water. Redwort and water to clean, redwort and numbweed to help with the pain. But she needed to clean the ichor off to see how bad the lesions and abrasions...feck it all to the Star, those were fecking puncture wounds! What kind of dragon did this?
A dragon belonging to a psychopathic rider, a little voice inside her said. Too bad the dragon couldn’t be reassigned to another person.
“It looks like most of the bleeding has stopped,” she said, gently wiping away the ichor stains. “But I’m going to need to pack these puncture wounds--those are the most likely to get infected.” She knew she’d have to minister to Dytha once she was done with Ponth.
“Where was Vukoth? I thought he could easily fly Ponth, despite his size?” As with most beastcrafters--whether for dragons or for animals, she knew the dragon before knowing the rider.
(( I didn’t choose him, )) Came the mournful voice, audible to Mendl as well as Dytha. (( He wouldn’t let go… ))
“Hush dearling, it’s not your fault. You flew as best you could…” Dytha looked up from Ponth and sighed. It was a sigh filled with regret. “He’s at High Reaches. Some training regime he was invited on and wants to talk to Nayari about implementing with the Candidates here… I was sure it would be fine. Shells, I encouraged him to go because he was looking forward to it. I completely forgot when it all started… Only one blasted thing was on my mind but I was still so sure that I could swing it the moment I saw him in the room.”
It was clear that the “him” was not R’bor but rather the mysterious bluerider responsible. Dytha shifted and unwillingly hissed as needle-like pain speared into the worse foot. “Tell me what you need help with. I’ve got a healthy stash of numbweed of my own as well as additional gauzes. From my own kit for my feet but I’m sure we can improvise.” The knot of guilt was growing in the pit of her stomach with every second her eyes stayed on her diminutive green. “I want you to talk to Mendl, Ponth, help her with where it hurts. Try to ignore what you feel from me.”
The hesitance she felt was interspersed with careful self probing from the green before she shivered with a despondent moan. (( I… I can’t tell! I hurt in so many places… It’s too many! ))
“Hush… hush, it’s all right. We’ll go over every inch of you if we need to, my darling. You just try to rest and relax a little. You’re safe with me, now.” Even as her hands smoothed the dark hide, Dytha’s face was dark fury as she turned her eyes on Mendl. She could take bruises and bites and pain in places it was never meant to hurt. But Ponth didn’t have to. Shouldn’t have to. “The bastard enjoyed it. Feckin’ scum.”
“All right, Ponth, we’ll get you taken care of. Dytha, I’m going to look at you when I’m done with Ponth. As Cremsden so eloquently put it once, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘wounds are wounds’. But for now, I think your biggest problem is your feet, and you know how to best take care of those.”
She continued washing Ponth’s wounds, mentally cataloging them into “bad”, “worse”, “need stitches”. Luckily the “need stitches” category was relatively low. However, it concerned her that a dragon would inflict this much damage on another during a mating flight. She’d never had anyone come into the Infirmary this beat up. Sure, sometimes things happened; look at Foreth’s last flight. But usually those were few and far between. Here...she frowned.
“What’s this?” she muttered, washing the bite mark on Ponth’s neck. Had the blue tried to kill her? A dragon rogue enough to try and kill another dragon needed to be put down right away.
“Who was this bluerider, anyway?” she asked, forcing herself to be calm.
(( He did it so I would stop fighting him… )) Ponth explained miserably as Mendl carefully probed the bite on her neck. (( Because he caught me. )) And even she knew the rules of the game. She flew, she was caught and that winner was just that, the winner. But the small gasp from Dytha had her own fingers flying to her neck, touching the bloodstains about her collar and turning her face away as she pulled at her shirt, pulled the collar away to expose the “matching” bite on the top of her own shoulder. “They did it at the end. Either the dragon influenced the man or… the man influenced the dragon…”
Deliberately, Dytha had been hesitant around answering Mendl’s question. How much did she want to tell her? But… Mendl was her friend. One of few at that. “He’s one of the Second Pass riders that stayed behind. Came forward from SEF. In a nutshell, that’s about all I know of him. Except the fact he’s a narrow-minded tunnelsnake who, for all his Weyr’s supposeded advancement thinks that these,” And here she gestured at her feet, clad for once in light slip-on shoes, shoes she had grabbed for ease in the heat of the moment. “Are signs of some sort of disease. Filth that I will pass to unsuspecting Riders.”
Although her movement was limited, in the fading light of day she was able to take a good look at the aftermath wreaked on Ponth and it made the cold coil of guilt twist with raw and ugly anger. “Shells, I thought rough flights were only supposed to affect the Riders. No one said the dragons got involved!”
Mendl compressed her lips and took a couple breaths to keep herself calm. She continued washing Ponth. “I’m not a rider--not sure I ever will be--but mating flights seem to be tricky. On the one hand, the dragon chooses her mate. On the other, whatever is going on, the dragon and rider’s minds are allegedly thinking as one. So,” she hesitated as she thought of something, something that if said aloud, would put Dytha into a huge depression. “So all I can think is ‘like rider, like dragon’ and the dragon is as much a tunnelsnake as the rider is.” That, and she was going to keep a close eye on the dragon infirmary; ask all her friends if they’d had a blue SEF dragon come in with injuries.
“I can kind of see the puncture wounds. Kind of. But the rest...no.” She was done washing Ponth’s wounds and was now coating them with a numbweed/redwort mixture. “Are any of your muscles hurting also? I can put something on those, too,” she asked Ponth. “As well as your cloaca. I’m sure there’s some bruising there, right?”
“Wouldn’t surprise me if they were as bad as each other,” It was a snarl of sound and the angry downturn of her lips suggested that the same thought had already been in Dytha’s thoughts at some point or another. Another sigh, one that would be of many came and Dytha spoke again, this time to Ponth. “Dearling, do you think you could get up for us? Let Mendl and me take a good look at you all over? I know it hurts but we’re going to help take that away.” Even if she had to steal barrels of numbweed from the Infirmary herself and spend the night slathering every inch of the green with it.
With a grunt, Ponth carefully unfurled herself, whimpering as she did as muscles spasmed and complained against the motion. It seemed to take an age but the small green was up on her feet. With her head hanging low in Dytha’s arms, she more resembled a whipped cur than anyone’s idea of a ferocious dragon. (( My wings… because I tried to keep going and…. and…)) When the green spoke to them again, her lilting mind-voice seemed to be wracked with shame. (( … under my tail… It aches… ))
“Well, of course it aches under there,” Mendl said. “You even have some soreness after a good flight. But you just don’t feel it then, because the flight was good.” She pulled out two large jars--one of numbweed salve, and one of concentrated wintergreen salve.
“I’ll numbweed under your tail first. There’s willow salic mixed in with the numbweed in this jar; so it’ll take care of the pain and bring down the inflammation.” She ducked under the tail to look--it didn’t look like there were any abrasions, just the usual injuries if the flight had been incredibly rough. Though usually that was the only place that had issues, when the flight was rough. Mendl rolled her eyes. Just let her get her hands on that jerk!
“Then, I’ve got wintergreen salve for the wing muscles. I’ll leave the jar here--Dytha knows, a little goes a long way. It’ll feel cool at first, then it’ll burn, but the burn will also burn the ache away.” Call her crazy, but she loved the feeling. If she was on her feet for too long, she even put some on them.
“So is this guy in your Wing, also?” Mendl asked. She felt like she just couldn’t let it go, but she wanted as much information as she could get, just in case she could do something with it. Like accidentally push the guy off a cliff or something.
In a peculiar way, the matter of factness about it seemed to settle Ponth, only grunting in discomfort as Mendl tended to her. But already the gentle ministrations were doing their job, the soothing fingers of relief beginning to overtake the pain. The little green seemed to be slowly starting to relax, even just a little but not quite as tightly wound as she had been on Mendl’s arrival. (( Is that what Mine puts on her feet to take the burn away? She says it feels peculiar but oddly enjoyable… )) Pulling her head from Dytha, Ponth shyly fixed her gaze on Mendl. The whirling facets were less dominated by the orange and grey flecks of worry and pain and the frantic whirl was beginning to slow.
Dytha had chuckled softly at the curiosity in Ponth’s voice. It was better to hear than pain. “Yes dearling, it is. And you’ll get to see exactly why I like it.” At Mendl’s question, Dytha shook her head violently. “No, thank Faranth! His blue is about on par with SEF’s smallest browns. Something of a beast even by SEF’s standards. So he got assigned to one of the “regular” wings. Shells, I’ve barely run into the man more than a handful of times but he’s got an axe to grind.” Using Ponth for support, she gingerly moved along the length of the green, inspecting the claw marks around her neck and shoulders more carefully as she did. (( He rides Travath. That is all I know. And all I want to. )) The last was said more sulkily than anything, but it was more than Dytha knew. She wasn’t even sure of the bastard’s name, let alone his dragon’s.
Oooh, a name. Good. That was something. “Alright, here we go. This is what Dytha and I like. There are some men out there who cry because this burns, but I’ve never felt that,” Mendl said as she started to massage the wintergreen into Ponth’s wing muscles. “So if it hurts, let me know.”
It even made her hands feel more energetic. A good thing, since even though Ponth was a small dragon, there was still a lot of musculature to cover.
Still using Ponth as makeshift support, it wasn’t hard to make her way to Mendl’s side, dipping her fingers into the thick salve and beginning to apply it liberally to the bunched and hot muscles. Her feet and everything else could wait, would wait until she knew that Ponth’s pain was as relieved as it could be. At least for now. The green’s hide shivered under the salve and the green snorted in surprise as icy tendrils seeped into aching muscles, only to turn into fingers as hot as fire.
(( Ohhhh….! )) She exclaimed, carefully turning her head to sniff at the ointment, only to snort in surprise as the scent made her nostrils prickle. She huffed and snorted, shaking her head as though to shake the sensation out of her nose. (( It doesn’t hurt it feels… it feels.... I don’t know how to say how it feels. But hurt is not part of that. )) Dytha rolled her eyes at Mendl. “And that is probably as much as an explanation as you’re going to get.” She grunted a little as she rubbed the hide. On top of everything, aching tiredness was trying to rear its head. There was no time for tiredness yet. There was still important things that needed doing. “You’re doing a marvellous job, dear one. I promise you’ll be able to settle and sleep when we’re all done. I’ll even bring your favourite fur out for tonight.”
Mendl giggled a little at Ponth’s surprise. “Right? It’s a good feeling. But we’ll get you all taken care of.” Leaving Dytha on one side, Mendl went to the other, massaging the aromatic ointment into that wing, the shoulder blades, her neck, carefully keeping away from the abrasions. This stuff was not good on cuts. Well, maybe it was, but the pain wasn’t worth it.
She was sure her tail hurt, also, so rubbed it into the tail muscles too. “You’ll need to call me tomorrow so I can do this again,” she said. “Right now it’s too much for one person, even as small as you are.” She peeked over Ponth’s back at Dytha, who looked like she was ready to drop.
“Have I missed anything, Ponth?” she asked.
(( Am I allowed to call for you? I know you are waiting for the eggs. Mine says that is why there are so many of you now. )) Ponth’s tired voice was shy and uncertain, as though to call on Mendl would break some terrible unknown rule. But it was clear that as Mendl and Dytha worked, applying the salve where it was needed, that it was doing the job it needed to, the relief visible as the small green’s legs eventually folded beneath her and dropped her to the stone. Pain could keep you going for a long time, but when it faded, the strength seemed to fade with it.
(( I think… that’s everywhere… )) Already she could feel the throbbing aches beginning to be overriden by the salves applied to her. Now, most of what she could feel Ponth could now distinguish as being only Dytha’s pain, not her own. (( Now I only feel where Mine aches. It is less… blurry… ))
Dytha hadn’t missed the subtle but friendly jibe and snorted as though highly offended. “I hope you’re not calling me stubborn from over there, madam.” Even in her tiredness, a glimmer of humour touched her eyes but it was wan. “You can call on Mendl whenever you need to, you just might have to wait a little if she’s in classes.” She knew what her friend was saying. Just as she knew that Mendl knew her well enough by now that she would likely try and do it all herself if no one stopped her. Stubbornness had its place.
“You can call on me anytime of the day or night,” Mendl said, rubbing Ponth’s headknobs and hoping those weren’t hurting as well. “Now, where’s that blanket and we can get you settled for the night. Then I need to make sure yours isn’t hurting so she can sleep, too.” She fingered the small vial of fellis something had made her take from the infirmary. Just a small amount, and she’d tell Master Larsin about it later.
Taking a moment, Dytha made her way carefully to Ponth’s head again where the green gratefully pushed her head into the waiting arms. With every last bit of energy she had, Dytha wrapped her green, her sweet, sweet green in as much love as she could muster and used all her strength to push the cold and ugly sensation of anger away from Ponth. “It’s in the chest on the corner of the ledge there.” With Ponth using such a small amount, even on a damaged ledge like this, she had been able to fold the large fur into a chest and leave it within reach whenever it was needed.
Even Dytha wasn’t so stubborn as to realise that Mendl would have been able to reach the chest and return in the time it would have taken her to get even half way there. Now that Ponth was beginning to settle, she was becoming aware of the deep, pulsing ache that spread up her legs. She knew that pain. The telltale sign of having done far too much and in the morning she would suffer for it. But she would deal with that when it came. “You’ll sleep soon, my darling. I promise. You shall sleep for as long as you want to.”
Mendl brought the blanket over and handed it to Dytha. Though she would have been more than happy to settle the blanket with Ponth, she knew it was something Dytha needed to do. Meanwhile, Dytha needed some ministrations of her own.
“Have you taken a bath yet?” Mendl asked. She thought that the bathing pool had been used, but the bloody shirt made her rethink that possibly erroneous observation. “If not, we need you in there now. And I know you’re tired, but if you want Ponth to sleep, we need to take care of your pain now.”
Carefully, Ponth was covered with the soft fur, light enough to prevent overheating but plush enough to provide dense comfort. Almost immediately the green had settled beneath it with a happy sigh, carefully settling herself down. The effort was exhausting in itself but as Mendl had already observed, it had been deeply satisfying for some reason Dytha hadn’t been able to name. But when it was done, she had given Ponth a fond caress to her eyeridge before turning to her friend. She could already feel the whispers of sleep pulling at Ponth and knew that it wouldn’t be long before she was fast asleep.
“Not yet. I ran one earlier. Probably left half a tap on when Ponth went up which is why it’s still running warm. Faranth knows how much went down the drain.” But wasted water seemed ridiculously unimportant at that moment. “I need to clean up.” There was a finality in the way she said it that implied that the “cleanliness” Dytha craved was more about scrubbing the taint of H’lan from her flesh than it was about actually bathing. That and she wanted to roll in a vat of numbweed herself. Carefully she moved from the green’s side, her face a contorted grimace of stubborn pain, her movements stiff and uncomfortable as aching muscles protested at their use.
“Here, lean on me. I won’t insult you by insisting on washing you, but I will sit here and watch to make sure you don’t accidentally drown yourself.” Not from any suicidal tendencies, but from sheer exhaustion. “Then, we’ll get you that vat of numbweed.”
She remembered that angry bite on her shoulder. “And disinfect you to within an inch of that bluerider’s life.”
And even though Dytha had those teas for her feet, with the small amount of fellis, she felt that maybe just the teensiest bit more was warranted. And then...even if it got her into trouble, she was going to sleep here. Her friend was too beat up to leave alone. Candidate curfew notwithstanding.