The day before their next Restday, H'lee had a surprise for them. For some, it would be a pleasant surprise...maybe not so much for the others. "You're going for a glacier hike with your mentors today, dragons and all. You'll go up and over the end of the glacier and should reach the other side just in time for your dragons' baths and oiling time. You'll come back along the base of the glacier and should be back here in time for their afternoon feedings. Alina's already packed up some lunches for you, and your mentors are waiting at the top of the training bowl for you. Dress warmly, but dress in layers; you'll be getting a workout and you may want to strip some layers off. You'll definitely want to pack your oil jar and some dry clothes for that part of your trek."
Second Post: Going on a glacier hike with your mentors and dragons! How fun! The actual activities during the hike will be detailed in K'so's post below, try to respond to everything that happens in that post.
Deadline: Saturday, July 28
Next Post: Sunday, July 29
Qancith had clambered up the side of their weyr bowl that was opposite their weyr so that he could catch some sun while his rider bathed and headed down to the kitchens for some breakfast with the other weyrlings. The startling announcement of a glacier hike was dropped on them while they ate.
All K'so could do was blink in confusion. The only time he'd even seen snow was at Fort Weyr around the Hatching. He couldn't even conceive what a glacier looked like, let alone what hiking on it would be like. Oh, it can't be that bad. Cold, sure, but it should be like walking through the snow at the Weyr, right?
he thought to himself. Well, forewarned was forearmed, so he packed a set of dry clothes for after Qancith's bath, carefully sealed the jar containing the blue's current favorite combination of oils (sage, basil, and walnut) and packed it as well. Then he layered himself up with light summer clothes from home closest to his skin and his flight gear over another layer of winter clothes - he'd traded a stained glass box (intended to be placed around a glow basket or candle) to one of the older weyrlings for their castoff flight gear; having grown up in balmy always-summery Southern Boll, even summer here seemed chilly to him, especially in the early morning hours.
Qancith grumbled as they wandered down to the bottom of their bowl to meet up with their mentor, L'ric, and his dragon, Scriath. He'd expected to have a couple hours of sunning before his bath, not a workout. When they arrived, he found that their mentors had riding straps sized for their dragons as well as riding gear for each of the weyrlings. K'so smirked as he realized he was the only one who had his own riding gear already.
The adult dragons were present as much to show the weyrlings what riding straps should look like when they were put on their dragons and then they were expected to put the straps on their dragons the same way. K'so stared at the seemingly disorganized heap of straps in front of him. Someone who had been around dragons for a long time would have realized that these were not normal riding straps. One of the mentors spoke up, explaining that these were actually rescue straps, designed for the dragons to help lift objects, people, and even animals without putting undue strain on their neck muscles; the straps passed down the chest and behind the dragons' shoulders and wings. They would also allow the young dragon to be lifted out of trouble by the larger, older dragons if something untoward happened during the trek.
To facilitate that, each weyrling dragon was harnessed to his or her rider; the rider would walk in front of the dragon to provide visual reassurance. The rider was then harnessed to his or her mentor, who was in turn harnessed to the next dragon in front.
Order of mentors, riders, and dragons: K'then, A'lo, Rikraketh; S'ril, Z'vier, Niocth; L'ric, K'so, Qancith; T'sul, Shimarkth's rider, Shimarkth; Ling, Artemis, Jadziath; Josei, Basidith's rider, Basidith; Mergha, Fayble, and Deasirith; L'gar, Pareilth's rider, Pareilth; S'len, D'rick, Haranth; V'tor, Spindath's rider, Spindath; D'nif, Katarina, Mccoreth; P'zar, Zhlucarth's rider, Zhlucarth. Someone explained that they were spaced out like this so that if something did happen to any one mentor, rider, or dragon, there'd be at least one bronze to hold them.
They were given a pair of sharpened poles to hold, one in each hand, and a few minutes to practice walking together in a line and to break the dragons' and riders' habits of walking to close to each other. The adult dragons would be flying over the entire group, ready to provide assistance as needed.
K'so found himself becoming nervous as all this went on. They were making such a big deal of how to handle "anything untoward," as one of the mentors seemed to be fond of saying. Did "something untoward" happen every time someone went out on the glacier? If so, why did they keep doing it? Of course, they were never given a chance to back out of the experience.
Finally, they started up over the eastern ridge of the training bowl which led through some other shallow bowls and over some ridges. After four or five of these, they found themselves looking down over the top of the glacier, which filled the bowl below them. By this time, it was when they'd normally have a short breather between their calisthenics exercises and the run around the bowl, and they were accorded a few minutes to look out over the rather impressive sight. It was not flat like K'so had expected. In fact, it was very uneven and here and there he could see fissures in the ice, a couple of which looked dark and dangerous. It actually looked a lot like the sand dunes along the beaches in Southern Boll, except for those cracks. It wasn't white and clean like he expected, either, it was rather dust and dirt covered.
Belatedly, he realized one of their mentors was explaining about how the glacier moved and something about "more rain" lines (which K'so couldn't figure out what he was talking about). He also couldn't conceive that this...mass was moving in any way, shape or form. Something this large couldn't possibly move. Melt, maybe, yes, but not MOVE. They were all given special cleats to strap to their boots at this point.
Then they were led out onto the ice, for it was more ice than snow, or perhaps very solidly packed snow. Parts of it reminded K'so of the frozen crust on the snow at Fort Weyr, but much harder than that easily-broken crust. He found himself grateful for the cleats and the pair of poles that helped him maintain his balance and his forward momentum. The dragons seemed to know instinctively to dig their claws in; the claws were tougher even than the glacier in most places.
He was breathing heavily after fifteen minutes out on the glacier and he knew, based on what time they'd started out onto the ice, that they weren't even a fourth of the way through this part of the hike. His legs ached in places he didn't know they could and he was sweating under the heavy clothes, but the wind bit at his nose and cheeks, and he had absolutely no desire to strip any layers off.
He heard a squeal from somewhere behind him and the whole line came to a halt. After a few minutes, he figured out that one of the girls had lost her footing and slid off the "trail" (if it could be called that). Someone told Qancith to back up ten steps; Qancith relayed to K'so, and they carefully backed up. Later, K'so would be told that was so the girl's mentor could get to her and help her to her feet and get them back in line.
After another twenty minutes of hiking, K'so felt ready to collapse, and so did Qancith. They'd edged around one of the fissures in the ice, which K'so had reclassified as a "crevasse" because it was a lot deeper than he'd expected, at least thirty feet down. It wasn't very wide where they'd passed it, but one of the adult dragons glided over what appeared to be the widest spot and it was easily large enough to swallow a small green dragon. Suddenly, a screeching went up and Qancith bellowed in surprise. K'so was jerked off his feet and dragged backward for a few terrifying seconds before he started sliding downhill. He'd lost his poles somewhere and scrabbled for anything to grip on, latching onto the safety lines that led back to his badly-frightened dragon who was flattened on the ice with his claws dug in and his eyes clamped shut.
Subsequently, lots of yelling ensued while most of the weyrling dragons just clung to the ice. One dragon and her rider was very clearly NOT happy, however: Artemis' Jadziath had slid into the crevasse when some of the ice crumbled beneath her feet. Her rider was also suspended in midair a few feet from the surface of the glacier. Josei was hanging half over the edge of the fissure, the safety straps between her and the dragon below her stretched taught; this unfortunately kept Jadziath's head pointing somewhat downward, since it meant the straps leading to her rider were longer. Josei kept shouting and Artemis and Jadziath to not struggle and try to hold still, something that would be very, very difficult for them, at least unless or until one of the adult dragons "gripped" Jadziath's mind and made her hold still.
In moments, adult dragons had landed carefully on the ice at least a dragonlength away from the fissure to avoid weakening the walls any further. The adult dragons instructed the young dragons to stay put and cling to the ice to support the weight of their dangling clutchmate and her rider and the mentors to either side (although most of them were doing just that already). Bronzerider P'zar instructed his dragon to try to subdue the green weyrling's struggles through mental contact while he had Zhlucarth and his rider move forward so he could transfer the safety straps connecting them to Mccoreth instead. D'nif then had Katarina, Mccoreth, and the bronze pair move forward again. D'nif's dragon picked him up and flew to the other side of the crack. Two other dragons sat, one to each side, next to D'nif's and P'zar's dragons.
D'nif and P'zar hooked their safety straps to both dragons' harnesses, then slithered on their bellies out to the edge of the crevasse so they could see what was going on. Josei was looking strained as she'd been pulled a little farther out over the edge and the lines between her and Basidith's rider were stretched taut; the young rider didn't look much better. P'zar scowled at the positioning and, through his dragon, confirmed that the best thing to do would be for him to climb down the inside of the fissure and attach the safety lines from both extra dragons to Jadziath's harness and detach Artemis' and Josei's lines once the dragons had taken up the slack. Artemis could be hoisted out the other side by her mentor while the adult dragons carefully lifted the young green out; meanwhile, Josei would lead the rest of the group farther up the glacier to get a greater margin between them and the fissure.
P'zar did just that, knocking bits of glacial ice down into the crevice where they echoed and chimed ominously. He froze every time one of them was knocked loose and didn't start moving again until the echoes had died away. A couple of them bounced off the hapless green, but there was nothing to be done about that. He passed close to Artemis and paused long enough to whisper to her what they were doing before he reached the green and attached the safety lines to the other dragon on his side and the extras that D'nif lowered down to him to the green, then had his dragon tell the others to take up the slack and lift her up a bit so he could get the riders' straps removed. He unhooked Artemis from Jadziath's harness first and Ling and her green immediately started hoisting the girl out. Josei had already slithered back onto the ice from the slack given her and was well out of the way before he gave the go-ahead to lift the dragon out. He stayed beside Jadziath to guide her out of the hole to try to minimize any further injury to her.
By the time they'd lifted the young dragon out of the fissure, Josei had gotten the rest of the group moving and were well up the glacier. The adult dragons deposited the poor youngster by her rider, several dragonlengths up the way. No doubt, they'd had to drag Artemis away from the edge of the fissure, but they were both safe now. Probably K'then would be on his way down the string if he wasn't already there to check them over.
K'so had just laid on the ice and clung to the straps linking him to his dragon in a manner similar to the one that Qancith had clung to the ice. When they were told to move forward, though, he found he was chilled and stiff and wasn't sure if he could move. L'ric had to pull him bodily back up to the "trail" where he got his walking poles back and finally got his feet under him. They moved several dragonlengths along and then he, Z'vier, and A'lo were allowed to sit with their dragons for a bit while their mentors went back to make sure everything went smoothly behind them; A'lo was under strict orders to stay put and not try to go back to check on his sister. It was while they were waiting out this part that K'so found out what happened and shuddered to himself.
After that, he couldn't get off the ice fast enough when they reached the end of their journey. "I NEVER want to do that again, thank you. Not even to get home. I would rather walk around that than do THAT again,"
he declared loudly, to the grumbling assent of others. Their mentors looked at them as though they'd missed the point of the journey, but K'so didn't care. Fortunately, H'lee had told them the return trip would be along the base of the glacier, not across the top of it, so he didn't have any worries.
Where they'd ended up was a glacial lake with a hot springs on one side. They were taken around to the hot springs and the dragons' harnesses were removed so they could dive in. The adults, especially those who had been directly involved in the "something untoward" that had occurred stripped down and jumped in as well. It was really quite warm near the springs and K'so had soon stripped down to his summer gear, and finally down to his shorts and climbed in one of the hot pools where he soaked away the tension and exercise aches and let the steam and water minister the scrapes and bruises he'd received skidding across the ice. Before long, though, his pool was invaded by a blue who was demanding scrubbing and coddling, by which point K'so was happy to oblige.
After the bath, they retreated to the shore and K'so soon struggled back into his winter clothing to finish oiling the blue. He'd set the jar of oil in their pool to warm and it smelled wonderful when he opened it. Several of the weyrlings downwind of them commented on it, as well, which made Qancith preen.
All too soon, they were packing up and heading down along the lake shore and around the end, which streamed off to join the ocean somewhere around Snowy Hold. This hike was much less dangerous, but no less hazardous as they navigated around pieces of the glacier that had broken off and were melting on the ground, huge boulders that were ground smooth, and pools of water. To their right was the wall of the glacier, in places only a foot tall where they could see up to the top, in other places looming a dragonlength over their heads. About halfway around, they stopped in a lush clearing full of flowers to eat their lunches while their dragons napped for a bit.
As they neared the end of their homeward trek, a low crack split the air and someone shouted, "SCATTER!"
They'd been told if they heard that to run away from the glacier as fast as they could, and K'so and Qancith were off almost before the word was finished. They needn't have worried so much, however - the piece of glacier that calved from the parent was several dragonlengths ahead of them and nowhere near any of them. They quickly reassembled and moved forward to see what the freshly-broken glacier looked like. The base of a large tree trunk could be seen sticking out of the ice half a dragonlength over their heads, and pieces of its roots were still embedded in the chunk that had fallen down. This chunk, though small in comparison to the parent, was ten feet in diameter and at least three times that from end to end.
They moved around the ice in silence, awed by the ice which made even Rikraketh appear small. Qancith was complaining quite bitterly of hunger and assorted aches in his muscles by the time they reached home, where they found freshly caught and killed herdbeasts for each of them waiting in a nice, neat row, the last one was just being laid out by the dragon who had caught them for the youngsters. The dragons immediately fell to feasting on the carcasses while their riders dragged themselves up to their weyrs. To their relief, they found that classes had been canceled for the afternoon and evening.
K'so filled up his tub with hot water and immediately sank into it. It wasn't as nice as the hot spring that they'd soaked in earlier, but it was still soothing. He soon fell asleep in the hot water, waking when Qancith came in and asked to have his face cleaned and reoiled, by which time his water was getting cool. He cleaned and oiled Qancith, using the waste water from his soak to do so and refilling the tub while he oiled the dragon. This time, he scrubbed himself clean, wincing as he encountered his scrapes and bruises.
After cleaning up, he realized he was famished and headed down to the kitchens. He wasn't the only one to have gone down and there were large bowls of stew and platters of fruit to eat, and he gorged himself on it. A young apprentice Healer was attending them and gave him some ointment to put on his scrapes and bruises, for which he was immensely grateful. While he sat, he visualized another stained-glass box, to be used only for glows, he thought, that would mimic the appearance of the glacier as he remembered it: brown on top, white and blue on the edges, with some dark blue on the top and sides for the crevasses.