Toria: Chapter 1, Episode 4.3 – The Wind That Wailed

WARNING: Other players should not read this until Chapter 1 is complete.

Autumn 1,253

Seeing the utter devastation of Ruatha River Hold from dragonback was a shock to Toria’s system. She could never had imagined something that bad. She knew Sersha was likely to be wrong, but she hadn’t thought it would be by so much. Her stomach, already unsettled by the sudden take-off, churned anxiously. The landscape was now a foreign vista, decorated with broken pieces of dwellings and vegetation. The  loss of life from the event itself and, in the long term, from injury or illness, had the potential to be staggering for human and animals. As they started to descend, she wondered how long it would take to recover from something like that.

When Master Zemel told her to make herself useful, Toria paused, taking in everything around her. She eventually picked a direction with a steady stream of people coming and going. Catching the attention of the nearest person, she asked which way she should go to find the Living Cavern. She quickly found herself in a hub of pure chaos.

The Living Cavern was divided into areas for feeding survivors, organizing lists of the missing and dead, gathering volunteers, and other things needed after such a massive disaster. Firelizards were popping in and out of the Cavern constantly. Toria eventually found her way to a makeshift infirmary downstairs.  The woman who greeted her explained that they were sending younger healers out to look for survivors and keeping the more experienced ones in the Cavern. She was advised to treat what she could out in the field, without sending people back to the Cavern, because space was already running out.

As she gathered a few supplies she might need for her mission, she was told that the ‘tidal waves’ – a phrase that was unfamiliar to the young Healer – might not be over yet. The last one was only an hour earlier. She was also warned that if she stayed outside overnight, she shouldn’t light any fires which could draw the attention of desperate people looking to take advantage of a lone traveler. Toria made sure she had enough food and water in case she did end up getting caught out once the sun went down. With a word to the healer in charge, letting them know what she was up to should Master Zemel inquire about her, Toria was off.

It felt like any direction she picked had the potential of people needing medical attention, so she started off in an easterly direction. Toria soon discovered that the journey was going to be more treacherous than she had thought.  The roads had been broken up by the waves, earth shakes, or both, so much in places they were untraversable. Mud and debris littered the landscape as well. She was carefully picking her way down the road when a large shadow passed over her. Shading her eyes, she looked up and spotted a brown dragon flying overhead.

“Might as well follow the dragon. Maybe it’s going somewhere that needs help,” she thought to herself, slightly changing the direction she was headed.

Suddenly the dragon turned around, flying back the way it had come. She barely had enough time to huff in disappoint before she realized the dragon was slowing down and gliding towards her. She stopped in her tracks and quickly moved out of the open area the dragon was likely to land in. When it did, she looked on curiously until she spotted Kebrin’s familiar figure climbing down from the large brown.

Happy to see a friend amidst all this chaos, she greeted him and asked what brought him out that way adragonback. He introduced her to K’relen, who was sporting Fort Weyr and Ruatha Hold heraldry, and his dragon Garioth. He told her that he was on his way to check on cotholds to take stock of their situation and needs. When Toria said she was on her way to look for those who might need the attentions of a Healer, Kebrin invited her to go with him, since he had no idea what he might find at the cotholds he was trying to reach before sundown. Readily agreeing, Toria soon found herself getting situated on the back of the largest dragon she’d been around.

After Garioth was back in the sky, the two Journeymen caught up as best they could while on the back of a large flying dragon. Toria told Kebrin about the possibility that the ‘tidal waves’ and ‘earth shakes’ weren’t over, wondering what could have caused such strange phenomena. Kebrin gave it some thought and commented that the history books linked the two when the Red Star was closer in the sky. Both of them looked warily up towards said Star.

They landed a safe distance from Briarstead cothold, and before taking off again, K’relen warned them not to drink water they might find because saltwater from the tidal waves would have made it unsafe. As the two teens made their way towards the cothold, they caught up on what was going on with Kebrin’s new Master.  Toria shared that if she managed to keep her head during the crisis, Master Zemel had agreed to sponsor her.

Eventually, they spotted a group of three buildings with slate roofs. They’d found Briarstead. It appeared to be a coppicing cothold which harvested smaller trees for wood. There were no people or animals immediately evident as they got closer to the buildings. The quiet made Toria uneasy, and it wasn’t long before they found the body of a young man that had been smashed under a fence. Toria examined the body and found bruising that indicated this wasn’t the place he had died. She speculated to Kebrin that he had been moved by the second tidal wave. When she looked at him, she could tell he was a bit affected being that close to a dead body. She advised him to breathe through his mouth; it had always helped her at the beginning of her training.

Kebrin went to look for evidence of others and found muddy tracks heading inland. The two of them followed the tracks to a copse of trees with a ladder going up to a treehouse. A second treehouse was being constructed by two men and a woman, with some children visible in the first treehouse. The older man, Cranley, and his son Brak were hastily working to build the second structure before another wave hit.  Brak’s wife had sustained injuries, having gotten banged around at some point during the three tidal waves. This was news to the two young Journeymen, as they were only aware of two. They mentioned that last one hadn’t come as far up into the cothold.

As Toria checked everyone out, finding some contusions and a concussion on Brak’s wife and assorted scratches on everyone else, Cranley said they were missing five from their cothold. Kebrin noted the names of the missing and promised they’d add them to the lists being compiled at Ruatha River Hold, as well as report he and his family as safe to any who might be looking.

Exchanging farewells and well wishes, Kebrin marked on the door of one of the buildings with a grease pencil the tally of dead, found and missing. They made their way to another cothold on his list. Kebrin decided to prioritize those cotholds closer to the water, seeing as they would likely be worse off than ones further inland. Keeping the water within sight, they found their way to Fishnet Beach. No buildings had survived nature’s wrath. Destroyed buildings and smashed up boats formed large piles of debris, upon which stood a dirty and scraped old man in nothing but a pair of shorts. He was ranting wildly at the Red Star about how it killed everyone else, but it couldn’t kill him.

Amidst his incoherent ramblings, he said all the fishers and fleet were gone. They had sailed out and never come back. Toria tried to calm him enough to evaluate how injured he might be, but it seemed the trauma of losing everyone along with their way of life had been too hard a blow for him. Asking if there was anything they could do for him, he asked for help locating the oar that brought luck to the cothold. Worried about the lone man stepping on debris with his bare feet, Toria hoped they would find the oar quickly.

The three of them searched for awhile and Toria even found an oar at one point, it just wasn’t the oar. Eventually, however, Kebrin and Toria had to move on if they had any hope of getting back to the Hold by sundown. They got the man to promise that once he found what he sought, he would head to Briarstead so he would have people to look after him. Toria privately feared they were leaving him to die of dehydration, but short of dosing him with enough fellis juice to drag him, unconscious, all the way back to Ruatha River Hold, they had little choice.

The duo made their way to the next cothold, Jigger Creek, which was hard to locate because it was more creek than it previously had been. Kebrin ended up fashioning a walking stick for Toria so that she could poke at the ground ahead of her to make sure it was safe to proceed. Cries of “Help, help!” began to reach their ears and they made haste to find a young boy, no more than five, soaking wet and standing on a large sawblade pinned in the remains of what must have been a sawmill. Izack, as he introduced himself, was in remarkably good health and reported that his Uncle Gideon was taken away by a tree and every one else was already gone.

Kebrin went off to look for his uncle while Toria stayed with Izack. She didn’t want the boy to be there if Kebrin found the uncle dead somewhere. He returned a few minutes later to report that he found Gideon clinging to a roof, surrounded by swirling water with debris in it that was too dangerous to get to on his own. His leg was also likely broken. He would head back to Fishnet Beach and look for some rope to make a monkey’s fist to toss to the man.

Toria asked Izack all sorts of questions about his home to keep him occupied while they waited and, after some time, Kebrin returned. Following behind him was the crazed man they had left behind, with an ore strapped to his back and a bundle of sisal rope on his shoulder. He was introduced as Micks and offered to help rescue Gideon. Now that he had the lucky oar and a task to focus on, he seemed to be more present.

In the end, they returned with a haggard looking Gideon, dragging him in a makeshift flat boat through the water. He was happily greeted by his nephew as Toria checked him out. She gave him some anti-inflammatory medicine and bandaged up the leg for his trip to the Hold. Micks volunteered to bring the two of them there before heading off on his own. With hugs and handshakes, they parted company and the teens were off to the next cothold on Kebrin’s list.

Westridge was on a high cliff, with waves smashing against the rocks. There was mining equipment evident, but no outbuildings, so it was likely that it was built into the cliff. While looking around, Toria thought she heard children’s voices. She mentioned it to Kebrin and they went to a higher vantage point to listen.  Whatever they were hearing seemed to be coming from inside the hold. Kebrin observed that he thought the water was rising, which made Toria uneasy.

They headed into the cliff hold and two things became quickly evident. One was that the water was rising and fast. The second was that there were a number of children up an air shaft.  The metal grate covering it had been hastily hammered off. Trying to reassure the children that they were going to save them, Kebrin figured out that the best way to reach them was to boost Toria up once the water reached fairly high and then quickly follow. They looked at each other as the water rose, and Toria tried to brace herself for it going very badly for both of them.

“If this goes badly…. it’s been an honor,” she grimly told Kebrin as the water swirled around them.

Finally, the water rose high enough for Toria to get boosted up into the air shaft. Her hands grasped at whatever she could to make the first attempt count. There were metal spikes at various intervals and she called down to warn Kebrin before he climbed into the shaft and hurt himself. After a failed try, he finally made it up just before the water got too high. They looked up and saw seven small, scared faces looking down at them. The children were in climbing belts, some torn in two because they were so small, that had been lashed to the pitons in the stone. Kebrin murmured quietly to Toria that the adults had probably sacrificed themselves to save the children.

Toria felt a great sadness well up in her as they slowly made their way closer to the children. While they waited for the water to recede, she tried to verbally ascertain if any of the children were hurt. Once that task was done, Kebrin lead the singing of a number of Teaching songs and other tune that very young children might know to distract them from the high water. After what felt like an eternity, the water went down and they were able to get the children out of the air shaft and leave the cave.

The two teens decided to forego checking on other cotholds because they had seven very young children looking to them who couldn’t handle another wave. They set out for Ruatha River Hold, but it was doubtful they would make it back before dark with the children slowing them down. After walking for awhile, a bit of good fortune came their way.  A wing of blue and green dragons flew overhead. Kebrin quickly entreated Toria to get out her flag to alert the dragons that help was needed. A moment later, they saw a green dragon break off from the formation and land close by.  They explained their need and a second green came to help ferry everyone back to the Hold.

It was quickly apparent that many repairs had been made while they were out, likely due to the help of dragons. They brought the children to the daycare that had been established in the Cavern and ultimately found themselves at a wall with personal messages written on it. Kebrin updated the “black” and “grey” lists with the information they collected while out and about, even adding something to an existing note.

Toria bade farewell to Kebrin to look for Master Zemel and report how her day had gone. He seemed pleased with her day’s work and gave her a new task. She was to go to a tent city about two miles up the road after a meal and brief rest.  He needed a Healer to examine the people there, diagnosing any possible contagious illnesses might be brewing.  Treat who she could, he instructed, but anything serious she was to report to him and they would deal with it later. She should get a soldier to escort her because the roads were starting to get more perilous as the initial chaos calmed down.

The grumbling noises in her stomach became more pronounced once her Master mentioned food. She navigated her way to where food was being served, gratefully grabbing something to eat along with a mug of klah, and managed to find Kebrin in the crowd. At some point during the meal, a well dressed Harper in his thirties with a charismatic demeanor came to talk to Kebrin. He was introduced to Toria as Kebrin’s new Master, Karthen.

Toria couldn’t follow all the Harper talk, but after it ended, Karthen went to sit elsewhere, obviously preparing to perform with Kebrin providing backup. They played a beautiful song about moving on from trying times. The elder Harper’s skill was evident as the song unfolded. The words were just what was needed at such a time. Toria found herself crying softly, and yet by the end, she also felt lighter, like things would truly be okay after those tough times.

Toria shyly complimented him on the moving musical performance before Kebrin got to the more serious matter of the reason the earth shakes and tidal waves might be happening. Karthen cautioned him to be careful who he shared his theories with. At one point, he asked her where she was originally from and told her that Katz Field was fine. It hasn’t even occurred to her until that moment that her home might have been affected. She honestly didn’t know what she would have done if he had delivered bad news after the day she’d had. He also confided, after telling Toria to keep it to herself, that more ‘aftershocks’ were likely.  He told Kebrin that the number he should really be worrying about was 58. That seemed to mean something to him. She made a mental note to ask him about it later.

Lacking any immediate orders from his Master, Kebrin offered to accompany Toria to the tent city. Having seen the healing power of music in a variety of ways over the course of that day alone, she thought it could be very useful to have him along and said as much to her friend.

Toria went to refresh her stock of healing supplies, taking as much medicine as she dared for ailments that might be cropping up. Kebrin had already gone over the rope bridge to the West side of the Hold to look for supplies such as blankets and clothes, and a wagon they could pull behind them. Heart in hand, she braved the temporary bridge, making sure to firmly grasp the ropes on either side of her. It was a long way down and it was not how she was going to die, she vowed privately. On the other side, she went to the soldiery to find a volunteer to escort them to the tent city.

Arriving at the temporary settlement, they found there were three people more or less in charge of different aspects of keeping things running smoothly in the tent city that had around two hundred souls staying there. Kebrin approached the one most able to help distribute the goods they brought, and Toria found herself directed to set up in an area where people would come to her for a brief examination. She saw many people, so many people. She kept a list of names, where they were from, and anything else unusual or noteworthy. On a separate scrap of paper, she kept notes on any information people had on known missing or dead, so she could pass it along back at the Hold to those keeping track of it all.

It was exhausting work, both physically and emotionally. At one point, Kebrin found her during one of her breaks, sobbing quietly to herself, and gave her a pep talk before heading off to resume playing music for the camp. She was grateful to have such a good friend in Kebrin. He performed songs abpit the heroism of dragonriders and other songs that everyone could sing along with. It served to both occupy restless people who couldn’t sleep and boost morale, even just a little bit.

Toria was glad she didn’t see any evidence of communicable diseases festering amongst the populace.  A few head colds were about the worst of it. She made sure to give those in charge instructions on how to avoid dysentery and other illnesses that tended to crop up with so many people in tight quarters.

Suddenly, there was a commotion from where Kebrin had just wrapped up his set. The Harper-in-training had fainted after getting up. Toria rushed over to check him out. Finding there was nothing she could do but wait, she decided to heed the advice of the soldier and head back for the Hold before it got even later. With hasty farewells to those at the tent city, an unconscious Kebrin was loaded onto the wagon.  Toria and the soldier pulled it behind them.

Thankfully, the trip back to the Hold was uneventful. After unloading Kebrin onto an empty cot, the soldier was off and Toria didn’t even take off her boots before falling onto the cot next to Kebrin. She was asleep before she knew it.

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