WARNING: Other players should not read this until Chapter 1 is complete.
Toria thoroughly enjoyed the Autumn Gather. She had thrown herself headfirst into all it had to offer, trying a little bit of everything because practically all of it was new in some way. She was glad she had run into Kebrin again, having wondered a few times how the all too serious boy she’d come to Fort Hold with had settled into Harper Hall.
Her encounter with the firelizards had been both unanticipated and eye-opening. Toria wouldn’t have known that there was anything unusual about it if not for Kebrin’s explanation. For weeks after, she kept a wary eye out for them whenever she was outside. She even took to carrying some dried fruits in her pockets, just in case. When she was out on herb gathering missions, she would take care to look around in places that seemed likely according to what Kebrin had told her. Not for evidence of new eggs – it was the wrong time of the Turn for that – but anything that might look like a likely spot for them to clutch when the time came.
In the few days between the Gather and the winter semester, Toria spent a fair bit of time at the Hold, sitting in with a group of women who did crafts such as knitting and crocheting. There, she learned enough to start on her Turnover gifts. She knew the winters in this part of Pern got colder than she was used to, so she planned on making scarves for herself and her dormmates, as well as Sylvie, Patrina and even Kebrin and Mitch if her yarn lasted that long. They would mostly be made with a bulky gray yarn, but she would weave in either purple or blue depending on who the recipient was.
Before she knew it, her second semester at Healer Hall began. As expected, it proved to be more difficult than her first. When she wasn’t studying with Sylvie or others, she was reviewing notes and working on out of class assignments. Klah became her best friend, helping her to stay awake during many a late night. Toria actually found she enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out a particular ailment based on a description of symptoms.
Some of the others in her dorm, usually Madi, Sersha, and Roshena, were more social, flirting with boys and worrying over their looks, while Toria mostly focused on her studies. She wasn’t against having fun, she sometimes went with one or two of the girls over to the Hold to see a Harper performance or shop for various and sundry things, but she was given this opportunity to become a healer and by the Egg, she wasn’t going to waste it. Especially not over silly boys!
Toria was so busy with the increased workload that Turnover was almost upon her before she realized it. She missed her family and friends more acutely than usual, but the festive decorations, smells, and general sense of excitement in the air managed to lift her spirits. She looked forward to seeing what gifts she would get and how her own handmade scarves would be received. Thankfully, once she had gotten the hang of crocheting – done by repeatedly crocheting and then undoing the same scarf until it looked like it should – it didn’t take very long to make them all. Winter had started early that Turn, so she knew they’d be welcome gifts.
She found Mitch at Harper Hall and gave him the scarves for both him and Kebrin, and mentioned that she had talked to a Master who had two firelizards and asked all sorts of questions, including where he had found the eggs. He was excited about both that and the scarves, and mentioned that he would be performing at the Hold on the first day of Turnover if she wanted to check it out.
She loved all the gifts from her dormmates – the writing tool from Madi was more fancy than she would normally have bought for herself – but the gift she cherished the most was from Master Valora. She read the letter carefully, taking in the words of her once Master and her heart ached a little that she would never again have the simplicity of Valora teaching her back home in Katz Field. What would the future hold for her, she wondered?
Toria was glad when winter finally released its grasp on her part of Pern and the weather became warmer. While seeing snow for the first time in her life had been quite memorable, she’d gotten over it fairly quickly. She had eventually learned how to crochet hats, but didn’t manage to make more than one for herself before the demands of her classes started taking more of her free time.
With nature in full bloom at Fort Hold, Toria was able to spend more time outdoors. Between Fiadi’s constant sneezing and sniffling and various changes in her dorm and study life, it was something that brought her peace. Spending so much time in classes or studying for various tests meant that she wasn’t as active as she used to be back at Katz Field or her family cothold. She leapt at the chance to get out in nature and explore.
Toria was sad to be losing her friend and study partner when Sylvie finally decided, after much thought, to transfer and train as a midwife. She seemed at peace with her decision and in the end, that was what really mattered. She was a sweet girl, and Toria thought she had the right temperament to deal with mothers and their newborn children.
After the labor-intensive duty days, Toria was free to go firelizard egg hunting with Mitch and Kebrin. It ended up being a fun time spent exploring outside with friends, but no eggs were found. Toria still privately vowed to keep an eye out on her own, when she was out looking for herbs or just getting out for a solitary study session.
A whole Turn. Toria had been at Healer Hall a whole entire Turn. When she looked back at the scared, shy girl who first arrived at Fort Hold by dragon, she could almost hardly recognize that person. The workload was starting to get more intense, it was no longer memorization of facts or an easily diagnosable illness to guess. On the other hand, she was feeling more settled and at home in Healer Hall. She had friends, she didn’t get lost around the Hall or Hold anymore… and then have to shyly ask someone to direct her back to a familiar spot.
Stress and other changes started to creep into Toria’s life by degrees. She found it easier to go out looking for herbs or get comfortable in some of her favorite hidey holes around the Hall than to listen to the latest screaming match between Madi and Roshena. Occasionally, she would get dragged into some of the drama against her will. She once found Keeva poking around in her room and was unable to find some of her notes from Biology class afterwards. She told the girl off for being in her room uninvited and got a lock for her trunk, where she started keeping schoolwork and other valuables. Then there was the time she overheard Roshena telling Nabella what a stuck up snob she was for trying to show them up in class.
The request a few days later from Master Rentin, a teacher for whom Toria had gathered herbs previously, was well timed. She did want to get more firsthand experience harvesting Needlethorn, but the comments from Roshena were also fresh in her mind, and getting out sounded like just what she needed.
It was a beautiful day as Toria made her way through winding pathways and down to where she smelled the Needlethorn. She felt herself relaxing as she carefully made her way down, already mentally going through the proper procedure for dealing with the thorny plant.
It was only because she was keeping an eye on where she was stepping that she noticed the broken glass vial on the ground.
“This doesn’t belong here,” she mused to herself.
Putting it back down, Toria glanced around and followed the broken, disturbed shrubbery to the cave. Looking around for evidence of large animals, she felt a flash of fear go through her as her mind dredged up the memories of the wherry encounter over two Turns ago.
She was surprised to see evidence of humans instead of wildlife in the dirt. Making sure her dagger was in easy reach, she continued further into the cave, taking care to mind where she stepped in the near dark.
Discovering the crates of medical supplies startled the young healer-in-training. Had the crates been stolen on their way to Fort Hold? Who could be responsible for this… and would they harm her if they found her here? Toria quickly did an inventory of what each crate had and took out one of the glass vials within, placing it in her satchel so it wouldn’t break easily. She could show it to a Master back at the Hall in case it proved helpful. After looking around for any other clues in the cave, she placed her foot in one of the boots to see how much bigger it was than her own foot, assuming it was likely an adult or adults responsible.
Not wanting to risk facing being harmed by the people who took the crates, Toria shut the glow basket and exited the cave as quickly as she dared. She tried to follow the same path as she had coming in so there wouldn’t be too many new boot prints to tip anyone off. Once she was clear of the cave, she looked for a spot to hide that wasn’t too close to the mouth of the cave but where she also had a decent view of it.
Calming herself now that she was outside, she told herself if she didn’t see anything after waiting a short while, she would make haste back to Healer Hall and report this to Master Rentin, one of her other teachers, or even Pamina if she came across her dorm delegate first. She studied her surroundings closely, so that she would be able to guide or describe to the adults where she found the supplies stored.
And so she waited and watched.