Rodents and Rescues

Emerald Isle - Sunset Beach
Soft pink sand lays along this stretch of seaside like a comfortable blanket. Its hue is a soft one and comforting to look upon, as is the smooth aquamarine of the ocean. Although the beach is beautiful at all times or day and night, it is the most profound at sunset when the sky is painted with the soft pastel colours of a setting sun. Dramatic reds, pinks and peachs stretch into one another, the seperate colours' boundaries left undefined, but as it gets darker you can notice a light purple continuely creeping into the others. Even the pink sand's shade changes, ranging from containing an almost fiery element to being a smooth pinkish purple.

It's very early out on candidate island. Better known as the Emerald Island. Better known as melon island. And soon to be known as GERBIL ISLAND. The sun has not come up yet. And only the crazies would be awake at this hour. Or the people who are wet or sore or just can't sleep. Then the sound comes. It starts like little scratching, like someone far away is itching their leg. Then it becomes louder and louder. And it's coming from everywhere. Inside supplies, from around any food they've stored, from the corners of the tents. From corners of blankets. It's nibbling. Lots of nibbling. What is it from? Gerbils. Lots of gerbils and no natural predators. That's what it's from. And they're eating everything. One is even chewing on Naris' hair.

The last couple of days have sucked, just for the record. Rain collapsed a number of the additional shelters Rhysanna (and others) put up, and food collection has been variable. Moreover, while there have been some efforts made to keep clean, results are minimally successful. Rhysanna is probably wet and sore and miserable, but she's also exhausted… exhausted enough that it takes her a few moments to rouse herself enough to register this new sound. She sits up with a start. And then? She screams.

Hah. 'Supplies'. Naeda's been cooking and distributing the fish she's been catching pretty much as soon as she gets them. The idea of having enough to store is laughable, even if she's managed to stave off starvation. Already paranoid about gerbils since one stole a catch right out of her hands, this invasion has sent her right over the edge into near-delirium. She's crouched by the edge of the crude shelter the candidates have built on her beach, gripping one of her poorly whittled whittled spears with both hands. Her hair is a mess, and her clothes are little more than filthy, tattered rags, several parts having been torn to make use of the fabric. Her eyes dart rapidly in all directions, her lips curled into the snarl of the decidedly unhinged. Then, the scream comes. She bolts upright, spear raised threateningly. "Where are they? Where are they?" She demands.

Do you know who's not happy. Naris. Naris is not happy. Not that the assistant headwoman turned candidated is exactly known for being a bubbly bucket of fun, but this is just a special brand of unhappy. Some might go as far as to call it supernatural. After all, she's been /dumped on an island/. An island where they'll all have to try and handle themselves for a while as some sick form of 'survival training'. They've been there for nearly a sevenday and it has done absolutely nothing to improve her mood. Do you know what else won't improve her mood? Gerbils. It is the one chewing on her hair that slowly makes Naris' eyes flutter open and, upon seeing a hungry moment staring her in the face, scream bloody murder. As she screams she jumps to her feet and does an odd wiggly dance thing thanks to the gerbil-gitters.

Lemmiwinks has called in the troops! Or more like he let them know there was food out on this particular beach. And so him and his brood have come to feast! On any food or clothing or anything they can find. Dead candidates. Live ones. Makes no difference! There are little furry balls everywhere, cittering and squeaking and nibbling on everything. One nibbles on Naeda's toes. One manages to climb into Rhysa's shirt. Naris steps on one as she's wiggle-dancing and it screams bloody murder right back at her. At least some of them are starting to flee, but there are still too many around and it is still fairly dark out.

"They're everywhere," squeals Rhysanna, at a pitch that would - hyperbolically - threaten to break glass if only they had any. Having a little ball of fur and teeth and feet in her shirt is not helping anything: she squeals again, hot-footing it away from the shelters while trying to shake it free. Her clothes aren't faring all that much better than Naeda's; her hair is basically a nest of matted curls; her arms and legs are scratched and bruised. And now she's shaking. "Get it off."

It will probably surprise no one that Naeda was the first one to strike a blow in this pointless battle of candidates versus gerbils. She shrieks in horror and rage upon being nibbled, and quickly begins stabbing at the offenders with her poorly made stick. "Rhys! Get my other spear!" She shouts. "We're having gerbil meat for breakfast!" A horrible, crazed laughter escapes her.

The feeling of a gerbil being smooshed beneath her feet makes Naris freeze, her eyes widening in horror. However, after another round of horrific screaming she does manage to get some control of herself. She takes a step back, eyes on the ground to ensure that she won't be stepping on any more gerbils, and forces herself not to scream. Oh, she still takes shallow and rapid breaths and looks on the verge of panicking but at least she doesn't scream. Well, not at the gerbils. Instead she shoots a alarmed look to Naeda and exclaims, "you can't kill all of them! We- we have to relocate! Go somewhere away from these /things/ and build a bivouac." Because when in doubt it's best to bivouac.

The gerbils, having apparently done enough damage, or eaten everything in sight, or being frightened, start to disperse now en masse. There's lots of skittering and scampering and squeaking as the bulk of the pack runs off into the jungle. Only a few remain, like the one clinging for life on the inside of Rhysa's shirt. Or the injured one that Naris stepped on. Or the ones trying to bite at Naeda's ankles. Several candidates have run to the only safe place from the gerbils. Which is apparently out into the shallows. There's lots of splooshing going on as they try to drown the ones attached.

Sorry, Naeda: Rhysa's a little busy trying to get her shirt off, something she has apparently decided is the only way to deal with this furry little situation. It gets thrown to the ground at her feet, and then she backs away from it, arms wrapped around herself in a gesture that's more protective than modest (and she's got some kind of a bra on, anyway). "Are they going? They're going. Quick, take down some more, Naeda. Or don't you want to eat this morning, Naris?" Her tone speaks of a desire for revenge; it's very nearly bloodthirsty.

Normally, Naeda would be all for Rhysanna removing her shirt. That'd be a top priority. But her lust for gerbil meat has temporarially overwhelmed her lust for the ladies. "Either we eat them or they eat us!" Naeda shouts at Naris in defiance of common sense, attempting to hop backwards in a tactical retreat towards the shallows as she stabs at the rodents. "It's the law of nature!" She cackles again at the fleeing mass of fur. "Yes, run! Run before the might of Naeda! I shall feast on your fallen!" Yes, she's lost it.

It's official, Naris is surrounded by loons. She is the most sane person in the group. Which, considering how she tends to act at times, is actually a /very/ frightening prospect. The surge of triumph that may run through her at the sight of the gerbils fleeing is pushed aside by her need to give Rhysanna a /look/. "No," she growls, "I do /not/ want to eat /gerbils/. There's plenty of fish that can be caught or plant to be foraged and… and… gerbils! There are too many and just… no." Naeda gets another one of her looks before she cries in a near hysterical voice, "Naeda! Calm down!" With that she's rounding on the poor fools that ran into the shallows. All fear the wrath of a cranky Naris! She prowls over to the shore before spitting, "some rodents can swim you know! And there's no way of knowing what might be in there!" Water can't save you, fire can't save you, spears can't save you. Only a bivouac can help you now.

The gerbils can kind of swim. Those that can't can sink and run out of the shallows. A few probably do drown. So at least they can have some waterlogged gerbil meats? The one in Rhysa's shirt is like, trapped in there or something. He's running off into the jungle with the shirt still attached to him. So if Rhysa wants that shirt she better chase it. Naeda probably manages to kill a few gerbils. Who knows if they are good eats or not. Or how to skin a gerbil. Or cook one. Maybe like a rabbit? Fire might at least help you -see-. Though the sun is starting to come up.

Rhysanna does stare after her retreating shirt. Hard. But it's still too dark to really see, even with the sun finally beginning to peek over the horizon; instead, she turns back to the others, shivering despite the relative warmth of even this pre-dawn morning. "I think," she says, abruptly quite calm, "we should all stop and take a deep breath. They're retreating. Naeda. Come on, Naeda." It doesn't mean she won't squeal again as another runs across her foot as it escapes.

Naeda continues to jab and stab until there are no more gerbils in her area of the beach. At least, none she is aware of. "It is done. We are victorious." She decrees with a still-worrying sort of grin. At least she doesn't seem inclined to chase after the retreating rodents. She plants her spear in the sand for the moment. "Right! Gather around, people! It's time for morning assignments. Lots to do today!" In other words, time for more of Naeda being bossy. She's oddly energetic for this time of day. Perhaps the adrenaline hasn't faded.

The gerbils are in fact in full retreat. Those that are not dead or injured. The candidates are coming back out of the water. A young candidate who looks like he's barely twelve is sobbing a little and rubbing his eyes. A few are shivering. Oh and any wood they've gathered for fire? Chewed down to sawdust. Or carried off in chunks. Up above? There are dragons flying through the morning twilight. Patrol riders, probably.

Rhysanna's answer to Naeda is wry. "Let me guess," she says. "Collect more water, try and prop things up again, more fish, more fire wood, more…" She's in the process of staring at the remains of their camp, yesterday's efforts lost in one fell swoop. But there's movement in the distance, and her gaze tracks up towards it. "Dragons. Taunting us, do you think? Maybe we should wave our pointy sticks at them." She sounds too tired for this to be a serious suggestion; she tries to push a tangle of hair behind her ear, and barely seems to notice when it slides in front of her eyes again.

"You've got it." Naeda replies to Rhysanna. "Plus, I'm thinking we'll need more defenses for our shelter to ward off further attacks. We could dig down to the water, make a moat. The little pests can't swim, after all. What do you wanna head up today? I figure I'll keep on with the fishing. That seems to be working out." The twelve year old is glanced to, sympathetically. "Hey, kid, calm down. We'll have fresh gerbil in just a little while. As soon as the fire's built back up." She sighs. "I wish we had eggs. And cheese. We could chop 'em up, make omlettes." Then Rhysanna points out the riders, and her eyes narrow. "Look at 'em. Riding high. With their proper meals and non-filthy clothes and their soap." The suggestion is nodded at. "That's good thinking, Rhysanna. I knew I made you second in command for a reason." Since when did the candidates have a command structure? Naeda retrieves her spear to wave in the general direction of the patrol riders as an expression of her disgruntlement.

There's no response from the riders. They sweep around and seem to head to the far side of the island. The little candidate, we'll call him Tiny Tim, his sobs go from sobs to sniffles and he whines. "I'm hungry…" He heads over to tug on Naeda's clothing. What? She's in charge. Feed him!

Despite her earlier comments, Rhysanna now seems less certain about the possibility of rodent-for-breakfast… it may have something to do with those now-disappearing riders, and Naeda's reminder of missing comforts. Not to mention the sniffling child the other candidate has inherited. Her expression may suggest some dubiousness at this whole second-in-command thing, but she draws her shoulders back all the same. "I'll start people collecting firewood," she decides. "Else there really won't be any food. Come on, people." She's not glancing after the dragons. If she did, there would be scowling, or something along those lines, and who has the energy for that?

Naeda is not exactly the motherly sort. But the little frown that appears on her face does seem to suggest a degree of sympathy for poor little Tiny Tim. "… It's okay." She assures, sighing heavily. "… Alright. First order of the day is breakfast." She gives Rhysanna a quick nod. "That's good thinking. We'll need to rebuild a fire as quickly as possible." She looks around for others she might be able to shout into obedience. "Alright. We need someone to fill the waterskins, a couple people to fill the knapsacks with fruit again, and someone to skin and clean these gerbils. I'm going to see if I can catch us another fish or two by the time the fire's going again. Any questions?"

Oh, don't worry about breakfast, kids. No. The riders are providing! They appear again, this time from not as far overhead. And they sort of… hover there. Which is… odd. Then things start falling from the sky! They're… well. It's rotten fruit mostly. There's still some good fruit in there. It's mostly citrus, with a few melons tucked in here and there. Several candidates get a good pelting. And Tiny Tim takes a rotten melon to the head as he's running around trying not to get hit. Now the beach is covered in food! And that means the rodents will be back, probably! There's laughter from overhead as the riders disappear into the distance. It's a greenie and a brownie, for reference. But they're too far to see who.

"Oh for—" Rhysanna initially seems inclined not to unleash her annoyance on the world, verbally, but clearly she changes her mind: "Fuck." She rubs at her head, hit by a stray fruit, and this time she really does scowl up at the sky, in the direction of those disappearing dragons. "That's it," she says. "We're disappearing into the forest, sharpening more spears, and turning on them when they actually do come back for us. Maya, Deinas; you're with me. Firewood."

"We're under attack!" Naeda shrieks, her paranoid panic bubbling up into a boil once again. She attempts to shield her head from the onslaught of fruit, crouched down and arms over her head. When the bombardment ceases, she's scowling and grabbing her spear to shake it at the departing riders again. Her eyes narrow. "… After breakfast, we're making some defenses." She says with a grim nod, her eyes scanning over her fellow candidates. "… Who here knows how to build a catapult?"

Tiny Tim just moves around the beach picking up fruit and trying to decide if it's edible. He eats some questionable pieces and hands up some of the good ones to Naeda. He still looks sniffly. "I hate riders." He says with a pout.

Rhysanna gives Naeda a look, which is probably not really fair, since she just suggested sharpening sticks herself, though probably not wholly seriously. "I think we all hate riders, right now," she decides, having overheard young Tiny Tim. "And it seems like they hate us, too. Which is why we're not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. Come on, people."

"That's what the catapult is for." Naeda replies ominously on the topic of rider hatred. When the little boy offers her some of the good pieces, she manages just a little smile. Most are taken and placed in with the rest of the food stores, but she hands the best piece back. "Eat it. It'll give you strength to help Rhys gather firewood. Then we can cook some meat and fish." She retrieves her spear. "It's huntin' time."

Tiny Tim does indeed eat the pieces that he's left with. Then he runs to wash his hands off in the water. Then he runs back over to Rhysanna. He gives her a big smile. Really big. Way too big and sort of awkward. "So. Did you forget your clothes or something? Naeda says we need to go gather… wood."

Out of the mouths of babes. Rhysanna goes scarlet, her blush spreading not just over her cheeks, but over a lot of her exposed skin, too. Had she forgotten her state of undress? She's remembered now. She's also choking. "It's not important," she says, hastily. "What's important is that we have firewood, so that we can cook. So: hop to it! Let's go." She casts a glance over her shoulder at Naeda, and it's at least one part begging.

Tiny Tim might think he's got game, but really he's just being rude, staring like that. And who knows what's going on in Tim's tiny pants. He sort of struts out into the jungle. "Don't worry. I got this." He says. Strut Strut. It only lasts about twenty feet or so, and he's shrieking. "AAAAAAAAAA I SAW A CRAWLIE THIS BIG!!!!"

Rhysanna grits her teeth. And then she puts her shoulders back (it's not really intentional, surely, given the way it sticks her chest out), answers Naeda with a shake of her head, and turns her thin-mouthed glance back towards Tim. His shriek? She is maybe a little smug about that, yes. "Firewood," she reminds him, sounding abruptly sharp. "Naeda, you'll help me bury the body, right?"

"As long as you help me with the catapult." Naeda replies, unable to help smirking a little as she watches poor Tim flail about. When he returns, she gives him a bit of a grin. "Hey, Timmy? How about you help that weird bookish girl with the glasses work on rebuilding the shelter, hmm? She seems more your speed. Send anyone who's still loafing around in bed to help with the firewood."

Timmy will remember this for a while. He's getting conflicting orders. He looks between Naeda and Rhysa, then puffs out his chest again. "No, I'll go get firewood." And so he trounces back off to the jungle to get wood. Or find wood. And bring it back. Now that the sun is up, there's another dragon approaching on the horizon. This one is bigger than the two that just flew off.

Hopefully he'll remember Rhysanna's scowl, too. It is a meaningful scowl, and doesn't bode well for his future… except that Rhysa is not, precisely, threatening. "One catapult," she agrees, waving more of the candidates off to collect the firewood, while she pauses to talk to Naeda. "If it comes to— duck." That's what she does: dragon alert.

"Whatever you say, kid." Naeda actually looks amused by the younger candidate's persistence. "… I give him about five minutes." She declares. Then, the alert. Her eyes go wide with alarm, and she ducks as instructed while grasping her spear. "No! The catapult isn't ready yet! To arms, candidates! To arms!"

Sorry, girls. This time it's not patrol riders looking to liven up their morning by torturing some candidates. It's just Zi'on, riding in on Suldith. He's at least dressed this time, in shorts and a t-shirt. And has no idea what's been happening out around the island the last few days. Other than that the candidates are "surviving". Suldith backwings onto a clear spot down the beach. Assuming he isn't pelted with rocks or spears beforehand.

Rhysanna, at least, doesn't reach for any rocks— or even for any of the fruit left on the beach. She does, however, cross her arms, going quite silent as she watches the bronze descend. It's definitely not exactly a warm welcome.

Naeda does not throw her spear. If for no other reason than that her previous attempts at spear-throwing have proven just how non-aerodynamic her spears are. She just clutches her makeshift weapon and eyes the bronze suspiciously. "It is him! The abandoner!" She declares in an accusatory manner. "Prepare yourselves, my people! There is no telling what he may pelt us with!"

Zi'on slides down from the bronze's neck and heads over to where the candidates are surviving at. There are glares from several! Yay! He peers at Rhysa first of all. "Where is your top?" The blinks at Naeda. "Um. Hello? Geezus, what's gone on here? No shelter, no food, no water, no fire. How are you all still alive? Also why does it smell like sangria out here?" That would be the rotting fruit. "I'm not going to pelt you with anything! What the hell!?"

Rhysanna blushes, though it's probably at least as much an angry flush as an embarrassed one. For once, she doesn't seem to have anything to say; luckily, other candidates are not so reticent. "There were gerbils," says one. "And riders threw fruit at us," says another. "I want to go hoooooooome," concludes a third, just short of hysteria. And then, of course, there are the sharpened sticks.

"Your ilk has tormented us with peltings of rotten fruit." Naeda explains. She at least stops openly menacing the bronzer, sticking her spear in the ground. "They may have unleashed the great rodent plague which steals our food and assaults our flesh. But we have endured! We stand united against all adversaries!" Yeah, this one could definitely use a little civilization.

Zi'on peels off his shirt and offers it to Rhysa. There. He's offering you the shirt off his back. Rodent-free, dry and warm and in tact. The bronzer just makes faces at the many explanations. "Gerbils?" He frowns. "They did? Which riders?" There's just some staring at Naeda, who has apparently reverted to her aboriginal form. Once the spear is in the ground, he approaches her. "Rodent plague? Have you lost your mind? Anyways… it looks like you guys are in rough shape." He tugs on what little beard hair he has in thought. "This hasn't gone well, no not well at all… The question is whether or not I leave you out here to patch things up… or bring you back to the weyr to… get cleaned up."

It's probably true that Rhysa wouldn't turn down the shirt of her worst enemy at this moment (that she turned down Naeda's is an entirely side issue; completely different). So she accepts it, silently, and puts it on, equally silently. That it's laughably big, well… she's not laughing. "I vote for option b," she puts in, a moment later. It's amazing what wearing clothes does for a person. "Before Naeda scalps us all."

"They came from all around us! Look!" Naeda hops on one foot so that she can lift the other to display to Zi'on, hoping some evidence of rodent bites persists to corroborate her rantings. "But we have united and are stronger than ever!… well. Aside from Sorel. Who knows where he's gone." There's a mild flash of an accusatory glare, but it quickly mellows at the offer of being brought back to the weyr. "Yes! We need soap. And ointments for our wounds. And weapons to smite our rodent enemies!" The look in her eyes is still oddly manic. "To the weyr!"

Zi'on peers about at all the candidates and their lack of supplies and the sheer amount of crazy going on. He sighs. "Well, alright. I've sent for some of the search and rescue wing to come out and take you all back. I can take a few of you with me now." There's a frown at the mention of Sorel. "He can stay out here, if he doesn't want to join the rest of us." Zi'on moves over to place both hands on Naeda's shoulders. "Nae. Calm down. We're going home. Why don't you ride back with me. We can head to the baths first thing, so you can get clean. And wash your wounds." No weaponry. "Come on, crazy. How about you, Rhysa? Or are you too mad at me to ride back with me?"

"We'll defeat the, uh, rodent plague, one day," puts in Rhysa, firmly. "When we're better prepared for it. They'll never see us coming." Her tone's a little on the placatory side, but relatively cheery. "I'm sure she'll feel better after she's had a bath and some real sleep." The dark-haired candidate lifts one hand to inspect it, broken nails and all. Is she mad at Zi'on? Is she too mad to take up an opportunity to escape immediately? "Rescue," she decides, aloud, "does a lot to make up for… things. I'm coming. Don't you dare go without me."

Naeda half-lids her eyes, giving Zi'on an almost wicked sort of grin. "You want to take a bath with me? Zi, I didn't know you still cared… shouldn't we at least invite Rhys to join us?" Her lashes flutter and she giggles, showing at least a hint of the old, non-maddened Naeda in the wake of this brush with insanity. But before the Weyrleader can answer, she turns back to her 'followers' to make an announcement. "My people! Rescue has come. The long nightmare is over. The riders shall return us to the weyr and all will be well. Rejoice!" She raises a fist in the air. After a moment, she lowers it and extends an open hand to Rhysanna. "Come, my second in command. To the wonders of civilization, and all the soapy, decadent delights it brings."

Zi'on peers at Rhysa. "I'll send the hunters out to set up gerbil traps." Or something. "Come on, ladies." The bronzer insists, heading toward Suldith. He can't stop Naeda's farewell speech, but he's sure the rest of the group has heard worse over the sevenday. Zi'on chuckles at Naeda. "Yes, invite Rhysa. Just because I'm dating her doesn't mean I don't -care- Naeda." Though the bronzer knows the baths are a dangerous place to be around Naeda. Once they reach Suldith's side, he'll give the girls a boost up if they need it. "I only have the straps for the three of us. Who wants front and who wants back?"

Rhysanna seems to accept Naeda's speech without question, almost quite seriously, though it's possible she's giggling on the inside. Accepting Naeda's hand, she accompanies the other candidate to Suldith, and gratefully accepts assistance in climbing aboard. "I'll take front," she says, "and I don't care who is in my bath, as long as I'm in it. And soon." This has definite priority over gerbils.

"I don't mind being in back. Rowr." Was that a double entendre? Possibly. Who knows what Naeda thinks it means. She's sleep deprived and delirious. She accepts the help up, and wraps her arms around Rhysanna once she's settled on dragonback. "Mmm. It's a Rhysa sandwich." She giggles. "To soap! And weyr!" She declares, fist raised once more. Thankfully, she seems to have forgotten her quest for rodent vengeance.

Zi'on was more assuming a Zi'on sandwich, with him riding in the middle. As it is though, he'll make due riding in the front front. For some reason Zi'on would not trust Naeda at his back. He's sort of glad Rhysa is between them, hopefully she could fend off any fondling that Naeda might want to do on the ride. At least she was in a shirt. He makes sure everyone is strapped in. "Alright girls, hold on tight. Lift offs can be a little jarring. Next stop: the bathing caverns." And off they go! It's only a short flight back to the weyr.

It's probably a good thing that it's not a long flight, not that Rhysa seems bothered by being caught between Zi'on and Naeda. Shells, she doesn't even seem to mind having Naeda's arms wrapped around her, though there's no return fondling. Over either of them. It's still been a long few days… and she still probably smells. She does spare a glance down at the beach as they depart, and at those candidates still stuck down there, albeit presumably not for long. But it's a fleeting glance: a bath awaits.

Naeda seems to fall asleep for part of the ride. She's been awake for who knows how long, keeping 'watch' over her fellow candidates in the night. But now, the promise of a bath has her alert again. She's stripping off her filthy rags as soon as she's in the cavern, staggering towards the nearest pool. "Bath…" She murmurs.

Zi'on should probably head back to oversee the rescue effort, but he's feeling gross after the ride. Plus he's concerned about Naeda's mental health, and wants to keep an eye on her. And thankfully, he is already half naked! So it all works out for everyone. The bronzer strips down as soon as they are in the caverns. He is not shy in the slightest. And he sinks right into the pool Naeda is in. "Ah… nice and relaxing."

Rhysanna's clothes come off just as easily as everyone else's, abandoned at the side of the pool before she sinks in up to her chin. Her exhale is the deepest of sighs, but instead of closing her eyes and relaxing, she's instantly attacking herself with the soap, apparently far too focused on cleanliness to even pay attention to the other company. No doubt she'll emerge from the cleanliness haze eventually.

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