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About Mawgrim

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  1. Mawgrim

    Chapter 2

    What a horrible working environment. The fact that Muriel refuses to wear a face mask gives an indication of her character even before she starts to speak. I doubt anything Spencer can do will ever impress her and if he does manage to land an interview with Marshall, she'll probably end up taking the credit for it.
  2. Mawgrim

    Any Day

    A well written and beautifully crafted story with believable characters whom you can imagine going on with their lives once the storytellers spotlight is off them. All through the story I was coming up with theories as to what had really happened at Bryn Bach, but I couldn’t have imagined the twists and turns that eventually became clear at the end. Even though I now know the solution to the mystery, this is a story I would happily read again.
  3. Mawgrim


    Really enjoying this story. I’m wondering now if Leonard and Adrian are going to uncover another clue to the mystery during the renovations. I don’t think Luke committed suicide either and maybe the reason the aunt wanted the house was to make sure nothing untoward comes to light.
  4. Mawgrim

    Chapter 1

    An intriguing first chapter. Love the characters and want to find out more about them.
  5. Mawgrim


    Great to see some HP fanfic here and an intriguing first chapter.
  6. Mawgrim


    Rita is definitely going out of her way to include Rick in all of her events and to make everyone think they are an item. I'm wondering if this is all part of her plan to get the townsfolk on her side rather than because she actually fancies him.
  7. Mawgrim


    It was too tempting not to do.
  8. Mawgrim


    Some of them are starting to get it. The riders from the past have a lot to learn about the modern age as well. All of them will eventually need to adapt. F'drun is a loose cannon who will never learn.
  9. Mawgrim


    Give it time...
  10. Threadfall morning again. D’gar hadn’t slept well. His brain had refused to switch off and he’d spent most of the hours of darkness thinking through the various tactics that might be suitable for today’s Fall, depending on weather conditions. When the grey light of dawn started to filter under the curtain, it was a relief to know that the night was finally over. His stomach was no worse than usual, thankfully. He’d have liked to just get a cup of klah served in his weyr, but R’feem had always insisted on the Wing having breakfast together prior to Threadfall and it wasn’t something he wanted to change. He dressed, noticing again the extra weight of the Wingleader’s knots on his shoulder. Later on, at some point, he’d have to surprise H’rek with the news. But first he’d need to attend all of those interminable post-Fall meetings R’feem always moaned about, so it would probably be much later than he’d normally manage to get away afterwards. Herebeth was in a cheerful mood. We lead the Wing today. I am looking forward to it. Me too. That wasn’t entirely a lie. He knew he was capable of doing a good job and that R’feem wouldn’t have handed over if he’d not had full confidence in his abilities. His main worry was about making mistakes that affected the rest of the Wing; of putting other riders and their dragons in unnecessary danger. He got to the dining hall before most of the others. Not really surprising. The sun still wasn’t above the rim of the Bowl and Fall wasn’t due to start until mid-morning. Before that, he’d need to go to the Wingleaders’ meeting to find out all the latest information, then pass it on to his Wingseconds and decide how they were going to handle this one. Drudges were just starting to bring out the breakfast dishes. The clatter of plates and the rumble of the wheels on their trollies echoed around the empty space. He waited until they’d finished before pouring a cup of klah with plenty of sweetener and filling a bowl with his usual porridge, which looked as unappetising as ever. ‘You’re up early.’ F’nor joined him, grabbing a couple of eggs and a few sweet rolls from the table. He gave a quick smile. ‘Couldn’t sleep for thinking. Thought I might as well get breakfast while it wasn’t too busy.’ ‘I heard the news. Congratulations.’ ‘I’d rather R’feem hadn’t been injured.’ ‘Of course. Still, only way a brown’s going to get a chance to lead a Wing, isn’t it?’ D’gar had almost forgotten those odd customs at Benden. ‘Not from our point of view, although I’d have probably had to wait until I was a lot older. Brown dragons can do most things as well as bronzes.’ ‘Except catch a queen.’ ‘Check your records and you’ll find they’ve even done that a few times over the Turns.’ ‘Really? Is that so?’ He looked mildly surprised. ‘Not that I’d ever want to set Canth against Mnementh, though and I’d definitely discourage him from going after Prideth.’ ‘I can see the reason for that.’ He grinned. ‘Mind if I join you to eat this.’ ‘Fine, if you don’t mind sitting with us old timers.’ D’gar led the way to the usual table. F’nor tucked in to his food. He must be one of those lucky folk whose appetite was unaffected by nerves. ‘Just thought I should warn you that some of the more hidebound traditionalists aren’t going to be too happy about your promotion, even if it is only temporary.’ ‘I suspected as much. Still, nothing they can really do about it.’ He stirred his porridge and wondered if it he could face a spoonful. Maybe not yet. ‘You might do best not to annoy them. F’lar’s on your side, but he has enough trouble keeping them all in line that he doesn’t need any more aggravation.’ ‘I understand that. I’m not planning on saying very much at any of the meetings, anyway. You can learn more by listening.’ He had a sip of klah. The warmth of it always helped settle his stomach. ‘True. By the way, how did Gr’lon get on with your lads yesterday?’ ‘Pretty well. He’d not be a liability in Fall. Someone should give him a chance to prove it.’ ‘We’ll try to find a space for him.’ ‘Well, if you can’t, we certainly will.’ F’nor smiled. ‘Are you poaching our riders?’ ‘I’d rather not see a good pair sit on the sidelines. He’s not keen on being sent south as his weyrmate’s based here.’ That reminded him of the other matter he wanted to discuss. ‘I heard some unsettling news about what’s going on in Southern that I think you should know about.’ ‘Don’t tell me it’s Kylara again.’ ‘Not her exactly, more who she’s taken up with. F’drun. Apparently he’s started pushing folk around and one of them is that young lad from your Wing, C’vash.’ F’nor raised an eyebrow. ‘How did you find this out?’ ‘One of our wingriders came back yesterday and told me. It concerns me, too, as his weyrmate’s in my Wing.’ He wondered if he should tell F’nor any of the other information he’d found out about F’drun, but then some of the wingriders began to arrive and the moment passed. F’nor, having finished his own breakfast, refilled his klah, then left as the tables began to fill up. D’gar ate his porridge mechanically, knowing that he should get some food inside his stomach; it was a good four hour Fall today and he’d need the energy. B’lin came over to sit with him. ‘How’s it going?’ ‘Not so badly, so far.’ He wondered if B’lin was feeling the same way as M’rell. ‘Listen, I hope you aren’t upset that R’feem chose me to lead while he’s out of action.’ ‘Not in the slightest. Rather you than me. Not that I don’t think I could lead a Fall, it’s all the other stuff. Meetings and politics. Not really my cup of klah.’ ‘Thanks. Think you could manage the admin for the time being?’ He didn’t really want to turn it over as he’d just got it nicely organised, but he recognised the need to delegate responsibility, if only to get some free time. ‘Sure. I’ll pick it up later, at our meeting.’ ‘I’ll have Herebeth bespeak Ondiath when we’re ready.’ Absently, he wondered if the Wingleaders’ meetings were announced the same way, or if that was another way that Benden diverged from the normal practice. Most of the Wing had already congratulated him the previous evening, so they got on with their breakfast. M’rell came down late - he’d had too much to drink the night before, which was normal for him - and took care to sit as far as possible from D’gar. B’lin evidently noticed. ‘Your friend seems upset.’ ‘He’s always wanted to be Wingsecond. He wasn’t entirely happy when I got the job rather than him and he likes it even less that I didn’t automatically promote him.’ ‘I can see his point.’ ‘Me too. But I needed someone with prior experience and V’vil is the only man who’s got that. I’ll have a word with M’rell later, try and talk it through.’ ‘I take it you’ll put him in my section.’ D’gar nodded. ‘It’ll cause less friction that way.’ He realised that while he’d been talking, he’d managed to finish up his porridge and that it wasn’t sitting too uneasily on his stomach. He’d just got himself a refill of klah when Herebeth sent a message. Mnementh asks for you to be in the council room in ten minutes. Tell him I have the message. Well, this was it. Time to face the Benden Wingleaders. As he was leaving, he passed R’feem in the doorway. ‘Just off to the meeting,’ he said. R’feem nodded. ‘Sit with W’lir and try not to let them get to you. Most of them are fine, once you get used to their ways.’ D’gar made his way to the council room. It wouldn’t do to be late for his first meeting. F’lar was already there, as would be expected of the Weyrleader and two of the other Benden Wingleaders were just getting settled. He recognised S’lel and K’net. K’net gave him a quick smile, probably understanding how he must be feeling as the newest and youngest among them and gestured to the seat next to his. D’gar sat down. ‘Thanks.’ He took a sip of klah, then studied the map that had been pinned up, showing the terrain they’d be covering today. It was almost the same area as the first Fall they’d fought after arriving at Benden. Hard to comprehend how much had happened since then. A few more arrived, W’lir among them. He took the seat on D’gar’s other side and leaned close. ‘This shouldn’t take too long,’ he said quietly. ‘Looks fairly straightforward today. You’ll do fine.’ ‘Let’s hope so.’ He didn’t want to fall into the mistake of being overconfident. Once everyone was settled, F’lar spoke. ‘I’ve just had the first weather reports. Partial cloud over most of the area, although it’s fairly high and looks as if it might clear later. Winds are light and from a westerly direction. We’ll have an update closer to Fall, but it’s looking as if we’re not going to get wet this time around.’ There were a few chuckles around the table. ‘About time we had some decent weather this season,’ W’lir commented. ‘Don’t think my wherhide’s had a chance to dry out since we got here and Araeth says he’s never felt so well-washed.’ ‘You’ll be pleased to hear that summer does get to Benden eventually,’ F’lar said lightly, evidently noting the black looks W’lir’s comments had provoked from some of his Wingleaders. ‘So, back to business. You’re on sweep duty today, S’lan. And K’net, your Wing’s on clean-up afterwards. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how vital it is not to let any burrows spread in the vineyards or I’ll have Lord Raid on my back again.’ ‘So long as the lower levels don’t miss too much we should be fine,’ K’net commented. ‘Who’s flying which positions today?’ ‘As you so rightly pointed out, the lower levels are the last line of defence, so I’m sure your Wing will do an excellent job there along with D’gar.’ R’gul gave a snort. ‘So we’re relying on an inexperienced brown rider to keep the vineyards intact.’ D’gar had intended to stay quiet at the meeting, but he couldn’t let the slight go. ‘I’ve fought Thread for five Turns. How many Falls have you ridden?’ It was an indubitable truth. Beside him, W’lir nodded and made an approving noise. ‘Thank you, R’gul. I’m glad you drew our attention to the fact we’ve a new Wingleader present today. I’m sure you’ll all give D’gar your full support and remember that although leading a Wing may be new to him, fighting Thread certainly isn’t. R’feem is fully confident in his ability and that’s good enough for me.’ R’gul subsided with a low mutter to his neighbour, S’lan. D’gar forced himself to appear unconcerned as the briefing continued. As W’lir had surmised, it didn’t go on for too long and at the end of it he had a clear picture of today’s tactics and his Wing’s role. On the way out, he called for Herebeth and returned to his weyr, asking his dragon to call for Ondiath and Bitath’s riders to join him there shortly. B’lin and V’vil soon arrived and between them, they worked out the positions of the dragons within the formation and the shift order for the blues and greens. ‘Just the Queens’ Wing below us today, so let’s not give them too much work,’ D’gar told them. ‘The Weyrleader’s rightly concerned about burrows in the vineyards and we’re all partial to a drop of Benden white, so it’s in our interest to keep as much as we can from getting through.’ ‘I’ll drink to that,’ B’lin quipped. He seemed in a good mood this morning. ‘Right then. If you want to form the Wing up and get them started chewing firestone, I’ll be with you shortly.’ B’lin left first on Ondiath. As V’vil waited for Bitath to land he said, ‘I appreciate you giving the job to me. Most folk would favour someone from their own Weyr.’ ‘R’feem’s never done that and I’m not about to start. Besides, you’ve the experience.’ It hadn’t been V’vil’s fault he was demoted, just another example of F’drun’s bad attitude. Once they’d gone, he sat for a few minutes to get his thoughts together, then set to gathering all that he needed for Fall. Only after he’d got the fighting straps on Herebeth and checked them for the second time, did he realise he’d been kept so busy this morning he’d not had time to feel sick. Well, that had to be a good thing. Are we ready? I reckon so. He mounted up and let Herebeth glide down to the Bowl, where the Wing - his Wing! - were assembling. Selecting a couple of sacks, he fed Herebeth several chunks and while he was working his way through them, took a walk round to check that all the dragons and riders were fit and ready to fight. M’rell was still glowering so D’gar took the opportunity to take him to one side. ‘Just thought we should have a talk before Fall.’ ‘What about? You obviously didn’t think I was good enough…’ ‘No, that’s not it at all. I’m sure you’d be able to do the job, given some training, but V’vil’s done it before. I’m new to this, so I wanted two fully experienced Wingseconds there to support me.’ ‘You could have said something to me beforehand.’ He sounded hurt. ‘I should have done. I’m sorry.’ There hadn’t really been time, but apologising never did any harm. ‘Don’t take it personally. I still think you and Toth are one of the best pairs in the Wing.’ M’rell didn’t say anything to that, although he looked slightly less sullen. D’gar knew him well enough to lay the praise on more thickly. ‘I’m really glad you came back when you did. Let’s get up there and show these Benden riders how to fight Thread. All right?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Fly well.’ It was the traditional pre-Fall saying. ‘You too.’ Feeling slightly more happy that M’rell understood his reasons, he gave Herebeth more firestone and secured the sacks to his straps. All around the Bowl now, dragons of all colours were forming up. Their sense of anticipation to meet their old enemy fed through, as always to the riders. He watched his wing mates go through their habitual routines; T’garrin’s walk around his dragon, V’chal leaning against Lilith’s right foreleg as he surveyed the riders around him and worked out who he would be bedding later. D’gar caught his eye and looked away quickly before he got the wrong idea. ‘All good?’ He turned to see R’feem. ‘I reckon so.’ ‘Piroth and I are on support duty today. Not much I can do to help, but at least he’ll do his bit if it’s needed.’ Herebeth crunched his way through a large piece of stone beside them. ‘J’rud said they’d got him fetching and carrying, so at least he’ll be able to lend a hand. T’sum’s a good sort, too. His dragon’s recovering from a bad wing score.’ R’feem nodded. ‘Well, I’ll see you later. Fly well. I know you’ll do us proud.’ He gave D’gar his customary pat on the shoulder and strolled off toward the infirmary. Is everyone nearly ready, he asked Herebeth. I shall find out. F’lar was helping Lessa to mount Ramoth. She looked shaky, D’gar thought, watching them for a short while. Hopefully nothing serious, although everyone was ill now and then and it had to be fairly bad for someone to miss Fall. Around her a motley assortment of recuperating dragons and riders made up a small Queens’ Wing. All of the youngsters still at Benden were on firestone duties, together with many of the riders whose dragons were unable to fight due to injury. We are ready to fly, Herebeth responded. Good. Then tell the riders to mount up and their dragons to assume take-off position. He climbed on board himself, fastening and checking the straps again before pulling on his gloves. To their left, S’lel’s Wing was preparing to fly. He signalled to S’lel, letting them go first. The downdraught from their wings stirred the air and sent tiny flurries of dust up from the landing area. Looks like the ground really is starting to dry up, he thought, as Herebeth relayed his instructions and he gave the signal for the Wing to ascend. The came out of between in almost perfect formation. Below them stretched the seemingly endless lines of grapevines, the newly emerged leaves almost the exact same colour as Rioth’s hide. A group of men on ground crew duty stood outside their stone shelter, shielding their eyes against the sun as the dragons flew overhead. As predicted, the cloud had thinned and patches of blue sky were visible. The wind was light enough not to affect even the smaller dragons. All in all, you couldn’t wish for a better day to fight Thread. Piyanth’s rider asks if we start on the southern edge of Fall. Tell him yes. It had already been sorted out at the meeting, but there was no harm in double checking. Formations as agreed, given that weather’s looking fine. Ask Ondiath and Bitath to be ready to move into fighting formation. He scanned the north-eastern sky for the first signs of leading edge, although it was probably a little early yet. They always arrived at the Fall area in good time; even with F’lar’s maps, Fall sometimes began slightly earlier - or later - than predicted. Maybe it was something to do with the weather conditions far above the height a dragon could fly, he mused. While they waited, they flew the usual pattern, ensuring they would be in the right place when Thread was sighted. As they did, he watched the dragons in the Wing, noting how each were flying. It was clear enough today that he could see everyone. At the far end of the left hand chevron, Bitath’s bronze hide gleamed in the sun. Sweep dragons report first sight of leading edge. It is patchy, they say. Another mystery; why Thread sometimes fell evenly like rain, other times as clumps or in long filaments. Patchy Thread usually meant less of it, but the irregular nature meant dragons had to move in and out of formation more frequently and they would need to keep up a dialogue with those to either side to ensure everyone knew exactly who was taking which patch. Inform Ondiath and Bitath please and ask them to pass it on to their sections. He made a final check of his straps, tightening them fully so that no matter what aerobatic moves Herebeth pulled, he wouldn’t slip. Fighting formations on my signal. He checked either side, then gave the sign at the same time Herebeth issued the command. The Wing re-formed smoothly in just a few seconds. Even the two Benden dragons kept their positions perfectly. Part of his mind hoped that R’gul had been watching. I see Thread. Herebeth’s eyes picked it out before he did. Then came Mnementh’s roar and the first flames high in the sky as another Fall began. This Fall was definitely patchy, with plenty of clear space between each tangle of silvery Threads. However, most of the tangles were so large that a blue or green alone couldn’t flame the whole lot in one breath. It soon became obvious that the dragons in the sky above them were struggling, as several partially charred yet still viable bunches began to find their way through. They cannot clear it efficiently, Herebeth said. This is not working well. What else can we do? D’gar suddenly remembered he’d seen Thread fall like this before. It had been just a Turn or so after he’d joined R’feem’s Wing and he remembered how the Wingleader had dealt with the situation. You paired a blue or green with a brown or bronze and where you ran out of pairs due to having less browns and bronzes, you put what blues or greens were left together so they didn’t have to try and attack the tangles alone. He quickly ran through the permutations in his head, while Herebeth shrivelled one of the larger bunches with his fiery breath, then had him send the relevant information to the Wingseconds. They hear us, Herebeth reported. They have both seen Fall like this before as well and know what you intend. They instruct their sections to pair up now. Can you explain it to Piyanth too? And Mnementh. The Weyrleader’s dragon could then pass it through to the other Wingleaders. I will try to explain. He suddenly had a better idea. Lessa was one of those rare Weyrwomen who could hear all dragons, he’d been told. If Herebeth spoke directly to her, the information would be passed on far more swiftly and be less open to misunderstanding. Plus, the hidebound old fools would be more likely to comply with a Weyrwoman’s instructions. Scrap that. Tell it direct to Lessa. He watched as his Wing re-formed itself. Inevitably, during the shuffle, some Thread got through. Couldn’t be helped. Some of the dragons in the Queens’ Wing were already pairing up, meaning Lessa must have got the message and they went between to intercept the falling bundles before they reached the ground. Ramoth tells me to tell you Lessa has understood and that she thanks you. From the Wingleader’s position, he had a clear picture of how well the dragons were coping. Messages were flashing to and fro, relayed by the Wingleaders’ and Wingseconds’ dragons. Within a few minutes, all of the Wings had re-structured themselves and were managing this unusual Fall far more effectively. Herebeth paired up with Zath and they fought together through the first part of Fall. By the time it came to swap out, all of the replacements knew exactly what they were meant to be doing and which dragons they would be paired with. The shift change went very smoothly, all in all. During the second half, he was with Lilith. They worked even better as a team. D’gar mentioned it to his dragon. I like Lilith, he said. She is a very nimble green. Lilith seemed almost flirtatious at times, when the dragons weren’t occupied with flaming Thread. D’gar found himself hoping fervently that Herebeth wouldn’t take it into his head to chase her the next time she rose. Time had no meaning when you were busy fighting Thread. D’gar was only aware of its passing by the change in the sun’s position and his aching muscles. Eventually, the vineyards ended and after some twenty minutes of flying above rough grazing land, they finally reached the mountains, where Thread could continue to fall unhindered until the Fall ended. Herebeth called the dragons back to their standard formation and they returned to the Weyr, grubby and tired from their exertions. Back on the ground, he made his usual checks, in case Herebeth had been scored and not felt the pain in the heat of the action. Then he went round the Wing, making sure everyone else was fine. ‘I’ve not seen a Fall like that for a couple of Turns,’ V’vil said. ‘Last time was over Pars Hold around forty-seven, I think.’ ‘Yeah, we had a couple like that as well,’ B’lin said. ‘Difficult in some ways, but did you notice, there were a lot less injuries.’ D’gar hadn’t - he’d other things on his mind - but now that B’lin mentioned it he could see there were far fewer dragons than normal waiting for treatment over by the infirmary. ‘Must be due to the big bunches. Much easier to see and avoid.’ He carried on making his way round. M’rell certainly seemed in a better mood. ‘That was well done,’ he said. ‘I don’t reckon R’feem could have changed us around any quicker.’ ‘Thanks. Are you both fine?’ ‘Tired. Think we got a bit out of shape, lounging around down south.’ He slapped Toth’s shoulder. ‘He’ll soon get into it again.’ V’chal was removing Lilith’s straps. He smiled broadly as D’gar approached. ‘Lilith thinks Herebeth’s a fine dragon, she just told me. You’re not so bad either.’ ‘You fought well,’ D’gar said, trying to keep it professional. V’chal threw one of the loops around his shoulders and pulled him in for a kiss. ‘There’s more than this for you later, if you’re interested,’ he whispered as he nuzzled D’gar’s neck. ‘I like it when you’re in charge.’ D’gar smiled back. ‘Better not, tempting though it is. H’rek wouldn’t be happy.’ He extricated himself from V’chal’s embrace just as R’feem turned up. ‘Well, I never got that sort of appreciation,’ the Wingleader commented. ‘I’m deeply hurt.’ ‘Never know,’ V’chal winked at him. ‘Your luck might be in next time.’ ‘What happened up there?’ he asked. ‘Not many injuries today, I noticed.’ ‘It was a patchy Fall. Like that one we had over Hold Gar a while back.’ He nodded. ‘So you got them to pair up?’ ‘Yes. I remembered how you’d fought it last time.’ ‘Well done.’ He patted D’gar on the shoulder, as was his way. ‘Knew I could rely on you.’
  11. Mawgrim


    Glad that Rick was so insistent to Rita about her outstanding bill, but I guess the lunch meeting will give her some time to talk him round as to why she can’t pay it right away. I wonder if Helene is one of those people who is totally possessive about her partner. Maybe Gus was trying to escape from her when their disagreement occurred.
  12. Mawgrim


    The Gather passed without any more incidents and was crowded enough that D’gar managed to avoid bumping into H’sal, or anyone else he’d rather not see. Afterwards, though, he was reminded that although Fort Weyr was home, it also held a lot of unhappy memories. The first day he’d arrived at Benden, it had felt like a fresh start, in a place uncontaminated by the past. That was still true; perhaps more so now that he had H’rek as a weyrmate. He visited J’rud again the next day. The healers had him up and about now, learning how to get around the infirmary on crutches. ‘They’ve even got me running errands for them,’ he said. ‘To be honest, I’m glad you came in, or they’d still have me working.’ He sipped his klah. ‘Mind you, seeing the state some of these poor bastards are in makes me realise how lucky I am.’ J’rud had been fortunate enough - like himself - that he’d not had anything worse than minor scores previously. D’gar still didn’t like to look at the badly injured riders; the ones who were drugged with fellis, or who’d never be walking again, even with the aid of crutches. ‘Have you managed to see Zurinth yet?’ he said, diverting his mind from that path. ‘Yesterday afternoon. It took me a while to get there, especially over all that loose stone, but she was pleased to see me. The wing damage isn’t as bad as I’d thought.’ ‘That’s good.’ ‘It’ll be a while before it’s strong enough for us to fly again, but you know what they say about dragons healing faster than their riders. And Izaeth is keeping her well fed.’ D’gar smiled. ‘How about you and Sh’ran…?’ ‘We’re getting along just fine. Can’t wait for them to let me get back to my weyr so we can have some fun again. Not much privacy in here.’ ‘No, I imagine not.’ ‘How’s H’rek?’ ‘He’s well, too. Looking forward to being back at Benden for a month, despite the weather.’ ‘When is it he’s due back?’ ‘Just another sevenday now. Two more Threadfalls for us, probably one for him.’ Although the revised charts had been fairly accurate in terms of days when Thread would fall, they still didn’t have the same degree of certainty as those for the north. ‘I’m not interrupting, am I?’ D’gar turned to see Gr’lon. ‘I thought they’d let you out of here.’ ‘They did. I just came back for a check up. It’s still feeling a bit gritty.’ He gestured toward the bad eye. ‘But I’ve got most of the vision back. Seems like the more I use it, the better it gets.’ ‘So you’ll be fighting fit soon.’ Gr’lon made a face. ‘I am now. But R’gul won’t have me back in his Wing.’ ‘Which one’s R’gul?’ J’rud asked. ‘I still get muddled with the Benden Wingleaders.’ ‘Former Weyrleader,’ D’gar told him. ‘Bit of a hidebound old sod.’ Gr’lon smiled. ‘He didn’t know what hit him when you gave him that lecture. Didn’t make any difference, though. In fact, seeing you here, I was wondering if you could do something to help me out.’ ‘If I can.’ ‘I know F’nor’s got you training some of the weyrlings. He said I should ask you if I can fly with you next time. If you put us through our paces and think we’re sound, it might count for something.’ D’gar doubted that. R’gul didn’t seem like a man to change his mind once it was made up, and he wasn’t exactly on the Wingleader’s list of favourite people. ‘I can certainly do that. Even if R’gul won’t have you back, there’s more than just one Wing here at Benden.’ ‘I’d appreciate it. They’re talking about sending me down to Southern Weyr otherwise and I’d not fancy that.’ ‘It’s not a bad place. Better weather than here. And the food’s great.’ ‘Yes, but Chenna would be stuck here. I wouldn’t want to leave her again, not now I’ve just got out of this place.’ J’rud chuckled. ‘Know exactly what you mean.’ ‘Well, we’re doing some training this afternoon, so you’re welcome to join us.’ ‘That’s great. Thanks.’ He left them. ‘Looks like you’re making friends.’ J’rud said. ‘Maybe you won’t want to go back to Fort even when they’ve bred enough dragons here.’ ‘Fort’s our Weyr. Of course I’d go back.’ Even as he spoke, he realised he wasn’t so sure. ‘Really? I reckon we fit in better here than H’rek or Sh’ran would there. Last time I was back home, I heard some nasty comments about Benden.’ ‘Same happens here though, doesn’t it? All those quips about being four hundred Turns old. That brawl in the baths…’ ‘Maybe. But I reckon they’re getting used to us, gradually. You’re doing all right here, after all. Better than you could ever have done at Fort.’ ‘I suppose so.’ D’gar - and S’brin when he was still alive - had never quite shaken off the reputation they’d acquired as weyrlings. It hadn’t really mattered to S’brin; he’d never cared for what anyone thought and as a green rider, promotion wasn’t an issue. But D’gar knew R’feem would have found it difficult to make him Wingsecond without opposition if they’d still been at Fort. ‘Anyway, that’s all in the past.’ ‘Four hundred Turns past,’ J’rud reminded him. ‘I’ll come in and see you again tomorrow, all right?’ ‘You’re a good Wingsecond, D’gar. And a good friend.’ He left the infirmary, taking a deep breath as soon as he was outside to clear the smell of it from his nose. No matter how many Turns went by, it would always remind him of that day. Herebeth had decided to stuff his belly again, so D’gar strolled over to the feeding pens, where the sun was warm and sat on a bench watching his dragon run down a fat ovine. Benden was definitely getting better quality stock these days, he thought. Another brown dragon dropped down, letting his rider slide off. D’gar recognised M’rell and waved him over. ‘Didn’t know you were coming back today. Is it permanent?’ ‘Yeah. There’s nothing wrong with Toth’s eye now and most of the heavy work is done so they don’t really need us any more. Why? Don’t you want me back in the Wing?’ ‘Course we do. I’ll let R’feem know you’re here. We’ve Fall again tomorrow over the vineyards, so we could do with the extra help.’ Toth caught a wherry with ease. ‘There’s some good hunting in the south, so he’s not really that hungry,’ M’rell commented. ‘I’d have probably stayed longer if it wasn’t for F’drun being there. He’s an asshole.’ D’gar smiled. ‘I’d already figured that out. So, what’s he been up to lately?’ ‘Pretty much the same stuff he was doing with our Wing. Throwing his weight around. Picking on folk.’ That wasn’t good to hear. ’He’s not picked on H’rek, has he?’ ‘Not that I know of. No, it’s one of the Benden greens this time. Young lad, not much older than H’rek I shouldn’t think. Just out of the infirmary here.’ D’gar suddenly remembered N’bras saying recently that his weyrmate had been sent to Southern to recover his strength. ‘Not C’vash?’ ‘I think that’s his name. He’s a quiet lad, still a bit weak from his injuries. Maybe that’s why F’drun’s picking on him?’ ‘Who knows why he picks on anyone. I’ve not been able to figure it out.’ ‘Anyway, H’rek will be back soon, won’t he? Out of harm’s way.’ ‘I just don’t like to think of anyone being sent there to recover and getting bullied.’ Maybe he could have a word with F’nor about it. C’vash had been in his Wing, after all, so he’d want to make sure the lad was all right. ‘Look at it this way. At least the invalids don’t have to put up with him for long. Might be a good incentive to get better fast, otherwise who’d want to leave a tropical paradise to come back here?’ ‘Does T’bor know what’s going on?’ M’rell shrugged. ‘Think he’s just pleased there’s someone taking charge of the extra riders during Fall. He’s too preoccupied moping about Kylara to notice much else, I reckon.’ That didn’t sound good at all. ‘F’drun needs to be stopped before he does any more damage.’ M’rell frowned. ‘It’s not your problem, is it? So long as he can’t hurt anyone you care about - or me - why should we care? Leave it to someone else to deal with him.' That was so typical of M’rell. It wasn’t that he was heartless; he just didn’t concern himself with anything that didn’t affect him directly. ‘Yes, but they won’t, will they? That’s why he got sent here from High Reaches. Out of sight, out of mind.’ ‘You’ll worry about it, I know. But you can’t do anything. You’re just a brown rider. He’s a bronze and he’s in bed with a Weyrwoman.’ ‘Thanks for your confidence, M’rell. I’ve not done badly so far.’ ‘True. But don’t push your luck. Leave him alone. If he wants to stay down south, all the better for us.’ M’rell was right about one thing; he did worry about it. The only respite he had was during the training session, when his mind was otherwise occupied. The youngsters were coming together well as a Wing and Gr’lon and his brown dragon passed all the tests he set them. R’gul was just being fussy, he thought, refusing to have the man back. ‘How did I do?’ Gr’lon asked, once they were back on the ground. ‘Perfectly. If it was down to me, I’d be happy to have you in my Wing.’ He grinned. ‘Thanks. So, will you put in a good word?’ ‘Of course. I need to speak to F’nor about another matter, so I’ll mention it at the same time. There’ll be a space for you somewhere, I’m sure.’ Herebeth chose that moment to butt in. Piroth’s rider wants to see you. It is urgent. What could he want? Best drop me off at his weyr, then. He is not in his weyr. He is in the infirmary. What? This didn’t sound like good news. Tell him I’ll be right there. He made his way over, a feeling of dread in his stomach. He’d seen R’feem at breakfast that morning and he’d been fine then, apart from grumbling about having to attend yet another meeting. Maybe the Wingleader was attending to someone else. What if J’rud had taken a turn for the worse? He’d looked fine earlier, but who knows what might have happened. During the few minutes it took to walk the short distance, his imagination played its usual tricks so that by the time he arrived, he was prepared for more or less any calamity. Instead, the place was calm; the healers going about their usual duties in unflustered fashion. He spotted J’rud, on his crutches, carrying a basket of bandages. At least he looked all right. ‘Have you seen R’feem?’ ‘Yes. He’s just over there.’ J’rud nodded his head to his left. ‘What’s up? All I got from Herebeth was that it was urgent.’ ‘He’ll probably want to tell you himself.’ R’feem was sitting in one of the treatment bays, two healers with him. His right arm was bandaged and in a sling. ‘Ah, D’gar. Glad you could make it.’ His tone was casual, but there was a hint of pain in his voice. ‘What have you done to yourself?’ He grimaced. ‘Tripped down the steps from the council room. They tell me my wrist’s broken.’ One of the healers nodded. ‘You’re lucky it’s a clean break. Should heal up in around eight sevendays, so long as you don’t aggravate it.’ D’gar thought quickly. There was no way he’d be able to catch firestone sacks during Fall. ‘So that means you’re out of action?’ ‘I’m afraid so, for the time being. That’s why I needed to see you.’ ‘What can I do to help?’ He smiled through the pain. ‘Well, you’re just going to have to lead the Wing for me.’ ‘What? But I don’t have the experience. I’m not old enough…’ ‘You made a pretty good job of it in the south.’ ‘That was once. It might have been a fluke.’ ‘Sounds like you’re trying to talk yourself out of it. Would you rather have B’lin leading?’ There was humour in his tone. D’gar didn’t really think B’lin was the right man for the job, but didn’t want to seem disloyal to a colleague. ’He’s… all right.’ ‘Competent, yes, I’d agree with you there and he’s been a Wingsecond for considerably longer than you have. But…’ D’gar knew exactly what R’feem was implying. B’lin was a follower, not a leader. ‘I know what you’re trying to say.’ ‘Well, then, it has to be you. And your first duty is to help me get up to my weyr.’ They rode up on Herebeth, as he was smaller than Piroth. Even so, it wasn’t easy for R’feem to get on board without jarring his splinted arm. He looked even more pale and drawn by the time they got there. ‘You need some fellis,’ D’gar said. He was surprised they hadn’t given R’feem a dose of it already. ‘I don’t want to fall asleep yet and that stuff always knocks me out. They’ve slathered numbweed on my arm. It’ll do for now. You can pour me some wine, though.’ He sat in his comfortable chair, head back against the padding. D’gar brought him a cup of wine; Benden white, he could tell from the distinctive bouquet. ‘Have one yourself as well.’ ‘Better not. I’m going to need a clear head.’ He sat opposite R’feem. ‘Look, I really appreciate your faith in me but are you sure this is going to work? Aren’t people going to object?’ ‘One or two, maybe. R’gul for sure, but he’s not Weyrleader.’ He took a sip and sighed. ‘As I’ve said before, everyone in the Wing respects you. I promoted you for good reason; because I knew you’d be capable of taking over if anything happened to me.’ ‘In Fall, yes.’ If a Wingleader or his dragon was injured, a Wingsecond was expected to be able to carry on. That was why they had a meeting beforehand; to ensure everyone knew what the plans were for the forthcoming Fall. ‘And to cover for a Wingleader where necessary. You’ve seen it happen before, at Fort. Remember when Rolth strained a wing? He was out for several Falls and Z’los’s Wingsecond took over until he was fit enough to fly again.’ That was true. He nodded. ‘It’s just a bit of a shock, that’s all. When we had to go and fight Thread in the south, I didn’t have time to think about it.’ ‘Well, you’ve the time now. And being able to think through a problem is one of your strengths. I don’t want anyone else leading my Wing and I’ll tell the Weyrleader that when I see him. He’s a sensible man, for all that he has a few outlandish ideas.’ ‘Well, I suppose so.’ It still seemed a big step, but he was warming to the idea. He knew, deep down, that he had the ability to do the job well. He’d certainly be better at it than some of those who already held the position. He decided to break the news to Herebeth. How do you feel about leading the Wing? Herebeth mulled over it for a few seconds. I would very much like that. We have flown well. We are capable. His confidence boosted D’gar’s own. R’feem smiled. ‘Your dragon reckons it’s a good idea. I can tell.’ ‘He does. And now I’ve had a chance to get over the initial shock, I think the same.’ ‘Good. I knew you’d come round.’ He took another drink and gave D’gar a calculating look. ‘Better start considering who you’re going to pick as the other Wingsecond. It’ll be only temporary, of course, until I’m fit again. I know who I’d have, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.’ D’gar suddenly remembered M’rell was back at Benden. M’rell had always wanted to be Wingsecond; he’d been bitterly disappointed when he’d not been given the job before. And yet, now he was in the position to choose, he knew why R’feem hadn’t picked him. Like B’lin, M’rell wasn’t a leader. He followed orders well, but he was inclined to be impulsive and didn’t always consider the consequences of his actions. ‘That’s a tough choice to make,’ he said. ‘Because I know who wants the job, but I’m not sure he’s the one who should have it. And if he doesn’t get it, he’s going to be upset with me.’ ‘Who’s that, then?’ ‘M’rell. He’s fit to fight again, in case you’d not heard.’ ‘I hadn’t.’ ‘I saw him earlier today.’ R’feem spoke quietly. ‘You’re Wingleader. You need to consider what’s best for the Wing. Out of all our riders, who would be most effective as Wingsecond?’ D’gar didn’t have to give it too much thought. Putting aside what M’rell wanted was easy when you thought about it like that - although it wouldn’t stop M’rell feeling as if he’d been passed over again. ‘V’vil from High Reaches. He’s been a Wingsecond before. He knows his stuff.’ He counted out the points on his fingers. ‘He’s more than capable of taking over, if the need arises.’ R’feem nodded. ‘My thoughts, too.’ He sighed. ‘It should have been him from the start, rather than F’drun. Only F’drun’s record looked better and he convinced me he was the man for the job.’ ‘Anyone can make mistakes.’ ‘I know.’ He laughed briefly, then turned serious. ‘You know, you wouldn’t even have dreamed of saying anything like that to me a Turn ago. But then, when S’brin was around, you never really spoke up for yourself.’ It was true. S’brin had been such a big personality that it hadn’t really mattered he was just a green rider. From the time they were kids, he had always been the leader; the risk-taker. D’gar had followed him unquestioningly, firstly as a friend and then as a lover. It had led him into trouble sometimes, but he hadn’t cared. R’feem could only view their relationship from the outside; he didn’t fully understand the bond they’d shared. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said that…’ he ventured, when D’gar didn’t respond. ‘No. It’s true, up to a point. It was just how we were. That’s why T’garrin always had me down to Impress a green and him a blue. Well, until the first Hatching, anyway. I Impressed second time.’ ‘I know. I was there. You should have got that bronze the first time you stood.’ D’gar started. He’d not thought anyone else had noticed. S’brin had been sick with a fever when Loranth’s eggs had hatched and he’d done his best to be ignored; not too difficult when there were a lot more candidates than eggs. You had to think happy, welcoming thoughts when the young dragons hatched. If you closed your mind off, then they’d overlook you and go for someone else. That was what he’d done, even when the bronze broke his shell and briefly looked his way. ‘I’m glad I Impressed Herebeth,’ he said defensively. ‘Of course you are. But there weren’t any bronzes in Kadoth’s clutch, were there?’ ‘No.’ What was R’feem getting at? He’d never felt as if he’d ended up with second best and he wasn’t going to start now. ‘Don’t get upset,’ R’feem said. ‘I’m just trying to point out that the colour of your dragon isn’t everything. We both know there are some bronze riders who aren’t fit to lead a herd beast to water and some greens who are clever and thoughtful. Like your H’rek, for example. All I’m saying is that if there’d been any bronzes in that clutch, you’d have been a good match and it might have made your life easier. But you’ve got the right qualities to lead a Wing, brown or bronze dragon aside.’ ‘I’ll do my best for you. For everyone.’ ‘Good. And remember, I’ll still be around to give you advice.’ He drained the last of his wine. ‘Better have a refill. Come on, have a drink with me to celebrate, then I’ll take some fellis, have a nap and we can break it to the rest of the Wing at dinner.’ D’gar went back to his Weyr. He wanted nothing more than to tell his good news to H’rek, but it wouldn’t be right to do that before everyone in the Wing found out. Realistically, he knew this was the best moment of his unforeseen promotion; the euphoria of success that would inevitably be tempered by the reality of doing a difficult job. He remembered R’feem coming to visit him after S’brin had been killed; having to guide him through the grief and keep him functioning as a member of the Wing. If anyone was injured or died during Fall, he would have that responsibility. If it was due to a mistake on his own part, he knew how much worse that would be. You are concerned. Herebeth could sense the turmoil of his mind. Do not worry. We will do a good job. I’m sorry, he told his dragon. I don’t doubt you for a moment. I just worry about myself. You will worry beforehand as you always do, then when we meet Thread you will do exactly what you need to. That was true enough. Thank you, Herebeth. You are the best dragon I could have hoped to Impress. And you are the only rider for me. We make a good team. D’gar didn’t usually feel nervous the evening before Fall; his brain - and his stomach - only switched into that mode overnight. He didn’t feel quite as nauseous as that; if anything, it was more like the scared anticipation of the day he’d stepped onto the Hatching Sands for the second time, wondering if any dragon would choose him. He kept his face and his mind closed as he met the rest of the Wing in the dining hall. M’rell came in and chose the empty spot on his left. ‘It’s good to be back,’ he commented. ‘Even if the food and the weather are rubbish. At least the company’s better.’ D’gar smiled back, wondering how long he’d feel that way once he heard the news. When R’feem arrived, his arm visibly injured, there were whispers and nudges around the table. The fact that it was B’lin who accompanied him - he must have helped him down from the weyr this time, D’gar thought - caused more speculation and several sideways glances in his direction. M’rell nudged him. ‘What’s up with R’feem?’ There was no point lying, when he knew. ‘Fell down some steps and broke his wrist, I heard.’ ‘Seems to be favouring B’lin. I’d not have thought he’d choose an Igen rider over one of his own.’ ‘He’ll choose whoever’s most capable, no favouritism involved.’ Maybe that would prepare M’rell for what was coming. Probably not though. M’rell didn’t think things through the way he did. R’feem settled himself, then tapped on one of the tin plates a couple of times. It took only moments to get everyone’s attention as they’d been half way there already. ‘You’ve probably noticed this,’ he raised the sling slightly. ‘It’s just a broken wrist, but it means I’ll be unable to fight Thread for a few sevendays. I’ve had a chat with both my Wingseconds earlier on and you’ll be pleased to hear D’gar will be leading this Wing until I’m mended.’ D’gar felt all the eyes swivel in his direction as R’feem beckoned him over. Those few paces to the end of the table had never felt so far. R’feem must already have loosened his knots and he ceremonially handed them over. ‘Fly well.’ Someone started banging on the table and there were a few cheers. At the other tables, riders swivelled around to see what was happening. D’gar held the knots loosely. ‘Thank you,’ he said to R’feem, then turned to the rest of the Wing. ‘I hope I’ll make as good a job of leading you as R’feem has done. Hopefully, I’ve learned a few tricks from him over the Turns.’ R’feem patted him on the back with his uninjured hand. ‘Tomorrow morning, we ride Fall over Benden Hold. I’ll be having a meeting, as usual, once we get weather reports and any other information.’ He scanned all the familiar faces. Now for the difficult part. ‘B’lin will, of course, be continuing as Wingsecond, but until R’feem’s fit to resume his usual role, we’ll need a replacement for me.’ He didn’t dare look at M’rell as he made the announcement. ‘I’ve decided that the temporary Wingsecond position will be filled by V’vil and Bitath.’ The High Reaches riders cheered loudly. V’vil grinned. He deserved it, D’gar knew, after all the problems he’d had in the past. ‘That’s it for now. Enjoy your dinner and if you’ve any questions, you know where to find me.’ He returned to his previous seat, several riders clapping him on the back as he passed. M’rell sat in stony silence. ‘You knew already,’ he said, accusingly. ‘Yes, but I couldn’t exactly say anything before R’feem did.’ ‘Well, thanks for looking after your old friends.’ ‘That’s not how it works…’ He started to try and explain, but M’rell got to his feet. ‘Think I’d better move. This end of the table is too exalted for the likes of me.’ On his other side, T’garrin leaned forward. ‘Don’t worry. He’s just disappointed. He’ll come round.’ ‘Let’s hope so.’ He tried to put it to the back of his mind. He had more things than M’rell’s attitude to worry about now.
  13. Mawgrim


    Great ending. I've often thought that if I could go back in time and tell myself of a year ago what was going to happen in 2020, it would sound like a sci-fi nightmare. Looking forward to reading more about Kevin and Steve.
  14. Mawgrim

    Chapter 31

    Don’t worry too much about H’sal. He’s staying at Fort Weyr.
  15. Mawgrim

    Chapter 31

    Yes, they can help each other see the different points of view. Plus they’re both young enough to change.
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