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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction that combine worlds created by the original content owner with names, places, characters, events, and incidents that are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, companies, events or locales are entirely coincidental. Authors are responsible for properly crediting Original Content creator for their creative works. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Dragonriders of Pern series was created by Ann McCaffrey in 1967 and spans 24+ books published by Ballantine Books, Atheneum Books, Bantam Books, and Del Rey Books.  Any recognizable content in this story is from Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey or their representatives or inheritors.  Original content provided by author of this FanFiction story without monetary compensation.

The Rider's Pride - 5. Chapter 5

J’shon fingered the shoulder rope he was wearing with a bit of nervousness. It was made with golden twine, the symbol of Igen Weyr, twisted around green, the color if his Liliath. The single bar and knots on the shoulder rope declared he was a junior weyrling. Even after six months, he was still trying to get use to being Weyr instead of Hold.

You worry again. Liliath said to him with disapproval tart in her voice.

I’m sorry dear. He replied to her silently. When he’d first Impressed his beautiful green jewel, he’d almost always spoken aloud, but now he’d gotten use to just thinking his responses back to her. He knew some riders never bothered, always speaking aloud, but he didn’t want other riders to hear what he said to her. It was one bit of privacy he had left, living in a barracks with over thirty other guys and their dragons.

“Nervous again?” The kindly voice of Master Harper Crivan came from behind and J’shon let out a sigh. Outside the sun had been up for several hours, and he’d been busy like every other morning since Impression. Liliath no longer had to eat every few hours, or even once a day like she’d done after she’d matured for two months. No, she ate every other day now, and was just under half the size she’d reach when she was fully mature. Still, every morning she needed to be bathed, and oiled. Then there were the endless rounds of Ground Drills that all weyrlings were trained in until they could do them blindfolded.

The Drills were important. They practiced on the ground the formations they’d fly against Thread, if it came. Soon, Liliath would be big enough and strong enough to carry him up into the air. Their first flights would be short enough, but as they practiced, they’d get longer and longer. He’d seen it with the group of weyrlings from the clutch before his. When he’d formed up with his weyrling group outside for their first drills, another group had taken their first flight.

He’d laughed, and he knew the weyrlings from the clutch now hardening on the Hatching Ground would laugh at him in a few months, but that wasn’t why he was nervous now.

“Yes, I’m nervous again.” J’shon said with a sigh. No matter how hard he tried, he always got nervous in situations like this one. He was dressed in fine wher-hide trousers, brand new ones since those in the Weyr’s stores that had fit him had been stretched and ruined over the last few months. He’d shot up a whole handspan in the last few months. K’mer had joked that J’shon was growing as fast as his dragon. Where his younger brother had once been taller than him, J’shon now was half a hand taller than K’mer. His brother took it in stride though; pointing out that J’shon was still much skinnier.

“Don’t worry lad, you’ll do fine.” Crivan said with a friendly smile and a pat on the back. In the last six months, he’d grown very fond of his father’s father, far fonder than he ever imagined. What had also come as a surprise was the regular correspondence on freshly cured hide that went by Runner from Igen Weyr to Kapian hold. Most of it went between the old Harper and his son, but on occasion, J’shon would receive news of home, as would K’mer.

“Why me?” J’shon muttered and Crivan broke out in laughter.

It is you because you make such beautiful music. Liliath said in a consoling tone and J’shon let out a sigh. He picked up the gitar his father had made when he was J’shon’s age, took a deep breath and entered the main cavern of the Lower Cavern. The tables that had so recently held supper were pushed back, and the benches arranged in neat lines. J’shon prayed he’d kept the supple white shirt he was wearing clean of any debris. Delonna had made it just for this night.

With a sigh he hoped he wasn’t too obvious, he sat on the tall stool that had been provided as his brother, K’mer sat at his drums, also from their father. K’mer wore a similar new outfit, except his shoulder rope was gold and brown entwined, to signify his dragon was a brown. J’shon strummed out the chords of the newest song from the Harper Hall. K’mer started the drum beat at the proper moment, and Ramina, junior weyrwoman, rider of Gold Pinath, of the same clutch as J’shon’s Liliath joined in on the pipes.

Journeyman Harper Warnel had written this song, a reminder that Thread was coming, and a call to Hold and Craft to support the Weyrs on who their lives would soon depend. The Harper, in his early twenties, and with a shock of hair of the palest blond J’shon had ever thought to see, had arrived in Igen Weyr two sevendays after the last Hatching. Crivan had been able to relax then, since J’shon had been too busy with weyrling duties to assist him in teaching morning classes.

The first performance of this song was a special occasion. All the lords of the major Holds that looked to Igen were here, as were many of their minor holders and of course several Mastercraftsmen from the various crafts on Pern. Fort’s Weyrleader and Weyrwoman were here as were their counterparts from High Reaches, Ista, Telgar and Benden. If it was performed well here, the song would soon become part of the common repertoire of all Harpers.

Warnel had written part of it with J’shon’s clear tenor voice in mind, and had spent most of the last month’s evenings working with J’shon on perfecting the song. J’shon wasn’t a Harper, he was a dragonrider, but he could have been a Harper if he’d accepted his father’s offer of apprenticing him to Harper Hall. Miraculously, his voice and fingering didn’t falter at all through the song, and he breathed a sigh of relief as it ended and those watching gave them all a round of applause.

The mere thought of being watched by all those important people had left him retching a half-hour ago, and shaking right up until he walked into the cavern.

You did well. Lilianth’s voice was soft in his mind and he sent her his thanks once more. Her support, more than anything, had helped him tonight.

The night didn’t end with the one song, though, and he was soon giving another performance, this time of the ever-popular Moreta’s Last Ride. Warnel joined them on his fiddle after that for a lively dance tune from Telgar, where they spent much of the winter penned up in their hold and had far too much time to invent new dances and new songs.

“Fine singing, lad.” Weyrleader H’mal said as J’shon was taking a break, sipping on some fresh fruit juice. He nearly jumped out of his skin as the Weyrleader started talking, and was shaking so bad some of the juice spilled out of the cup and over his hand. “Maybe that tune will help firm up the resolve of some of the minor holders. The records speak of unbelievers in previous passes, before Thread first falls, but they need to believe now in order to prepare their holds.”

Why do you worry? Liliath asked him. He is a good rider.

“I, uh, thank you sir.” J’shon managed to stammer out. He was still shaking, and it almost got worse when the Weyrleader frowned. However, when the Weyrleader started chuckling, J’shon got really confused and stopped shaking quite as much.

“Lad, its one thing for you to come to the Weyrleader without at least speaking to the Weyrlingmaster first, but I am the Weyrleader and I’ll speak to any of my riders when I feel the need.” H’mal said through his laughter and J’shon blushed as the Weyrleader clasped a hand on his shoulder. “So tell me, how is Liliath doing?

See, I told you he was a good rider. Liliath’s voice was far too smug.

“She’s gloating that I shouldn’t have been so nervous around you because she says you’re a good rider.” J’shon stumbled out, and then blanched at the thought he’d said too much, but H’mal laughed again.

“Lad, you better never lose that forthrightness.” H’mal told him. “I like it when a rider speaks his mind, as long as you don’t take it too far, mind you.”

“No sir.” J’shon said with a half-smile. “Did you really enjoy the new song?”

“Yes, I did.” H’mal said. “Warnel did a good piece of work crafting it, but I think it’s your voice singing the part of Pern’s peril that really makes it work. I wish your Liliath was a little older and you could fly to some of the holds with him to perform it, but maybe we’ll work something out. Igen Hold is having a gather in a few sevendays and I think we should have you perform with him there.”

“Me?” J’shon was flustered by the implied praise.

“J’shon, you may not realize it, but we all appreciate the time you spend during the evenings entertaining us.” H’mal said appreciatively. “We all know what it’s like being a weyrling. If you’re not caring for your dragon, you’re doing Ground Drills, or you are breaking up and bagging firestone, or you’re changing glows in the Caverns. Then when your dragon is strong enough for flying, you’re doing elevator duty in the bowl. Even B’rrel takes a few hours in the evening to himself. I’ve seen him playing chess with K’mer most evenings while you’re with the Harpers giving us music. We do appreciate it as well. Febrina’s always loved music and while Crivan has always done his best, he was usually too tired by evening to play long.”

“It’s a pleasure, sir.” J’shon said while his head swam with all the compliments. He really was busy as a weyrling, busier than he’d ever imagined being, but the truth was he enjoyed the evening playing. It helped relax him, and it gave him a connection to his past. They’d always played in the evenings at Kapian hold, and continuing the tradition here felt like he was honoring his father, in a way.

“I can understand now why your father was so upset to lose you and your brother.” H’mal said with approval in his voice, and J’shon felt a hitch form in his throat at the praise. “I don’t think I’ve seen either of your names on a punishment detail since the first sevenday.”

“We try, sir.” J’shon said as he smiled. True, they hadn’t been punished, but that was mostly because they hadn’t got caught. Not getting caught was no mean trick when there were nearly seventy sets of eyes in their barracks, dragon and human, and any of the dragons, even Liliath would answer questions put to them by the mature dragons. B’rrel, on the other hand, had spent about half the time on the punishment roster for various tricks he’d played on other weyrlings, or even the Weyrlingmaster.

“How are you taking the lessons on dragonic injuries?” The Weyrleader asked in a kindly tone, and J’shon suppressed the urge to shudder. For the past sevenday, they’d been sitting through lectures on the anatomy of dragons, and some of the most common injuries faced by dragons both during normal flight and from Threadfall. No one had seen it in two hundred turns, but the damage done by Thread was something the Weyrs of Pern never forgot. That was one of the reasons for the new ballad by Harper Warnel, to remind the rest of Pern just how voracious a killer Thread could be.

“It’s not easy listening to some of the lectures.” J’shon admitted honestly. “I hate imagining what Thread could do to Liliath. She wonders what I worry about sometimes, what with not remembering the lectures much.” That was something the songs didn’t really teach, but that dragonriders learned on their own. Dragons had horrible long-term memories. They might remember the names of some riders, they usually remembered the names of all the dragons in the Weyr as well as some from other Weyrs, but they didn’t remember any but the most notable of events more than a few days old. As for what they considered to be ‘notable’, well that was purely subjective to dragons. They’d remember which dragon last flew with which other dragon, but they’d soon forget the last time a tithe train or trader train passed through the weyr. That thought reminded him the sweep riders had reported a trader train of six full wagons on their way to the Weyr. That was good news since he still had most of the marks his father and mother had given them, and needed to get a few presents for the upcoming Turnover celebration.

“There are times I dream your father is right and we are wrong.” H’mal said with a heavy sigh, and J’shon looked up into the Weyrleader’s eyes to see the pain and worry there. He knew H’mal cared about dragons and riders very much, but this was the first time he’d ever seen the Weyrleader actually show fear. “Thread is not to be taken lightly, ever.”

“Yes, Weyrleader.” J’shon agreed quietly while trying to suppress a yawn. The young rider didn’t know yet whether he believed his father or the rest of Pern on whether Thread would fall, but he did know that the answer would come in the new turn that was fast approaching.

“Off with you, weyrling.” H’mal said with a hint of fondness in his voice and a smile. “You’ve had a busy day and will have a busy one tomorrow.”

“Yes, Weyrleader, sir.” J’shon said with an impish smile. He returned to where his father’s gitar was stowed and packed it up, noticing that K’mer had already left with his drums. Several other Harpers were preparing another set of music, and Crivan gave him a brief pat on the back before wishing him a good night.

Outside the warm Lower Caverns, the night held a slight chill to the air. It was the dead of winter, but Igen Weyr was next to the great desert and so it never really got freezing cold like High Reaches, Telgar, or even Benden Weyr. At some points over the summer, he had worried he might go blind from the way the sun glinted off the lake, or sweat out all his body’s water from the heat, but now he enjoyed the warm winter days and nights with only a hint of a chill.

You are in time, I itch again. Liliath said when he entered the Barracks a few minutes later. The glowglobes, those little globes filled with a fluorescent moss that provided a natural light for most of Pern’s residents were slightly covered already, leaving most of the Barracks in darkness. Half the Weyrlings were already asleep, and the other half were doing last minute chores or caring for their dragons.

“I’m here, love.” J’shon said as he made his way to the cot he’d occupied for the past half of a turn. B’rrel had the cot next to him, and K’mer had traded with P’varl, a blue rider, for the cot on the other side of J’shon so that J’shon was wedged between his brother and his best friend in the Weyr. B’rrel was playing one of his stupid games with his brown, Ojeth. It had something to do with a complex pattern of yarn threaded between B’rrel’s hands. Ojeth would put his forepaw through them and B’rrel would pull the yarn tight. Sometimes it curled around the dragon’s paw, and others it fell free. J’shon had never figured it out, but both dragon and rider seemed to enjoy it, although Ojeth was now so big that more times than naught, the claws on his paw would cut through the yarn, sending both of them into fits of laughter.

It is on my back, near my neck where I cannot reach it. Liliath complained, and J’shon smiled as he pulled the jar of oil out from under his cot as well as the bowl of water he’d use to clean his hands. Already in just six months his hands had grown very soft from the constant contact with the oil he used on Liliath. In those same six months Liliath had grown as well. That first day, she’d looked like a little canine curled up in the middle of a huge stone ledge that was her perch next to his cot. As he picked up the oil and the paddle, he had to stretch on his tip-toes to reach the spot that was itching, and where he’d some day sit astride her as they took off into the sky.

Green dragons were the smallest of all dragons, but Liliath looked big enough that if he had to, J’shon could probably have climbed onto her back and they could have taken off in a dire emergency. He’d seen the last set of weyrlings as they tried to fly the first time, and he knew they wouldn’t fly far, but they’d still fly.

Oh that feels so good. Liliath told him with what was almost a purr. In the darkness, her eyes glowed with blue and green and whirled lazily, showing she was happy and near sleep. Nikkoth says we must rest well tonight because tomorrow we have Ground Drills first before more firestone and then afternoon lectures, and there are traders coming tomorrow too.

“You remembered all that?” He asked some surprise. “That was very well done.”

I knew you wish to see the Traders. She said primly as he finished oiling and she turned around to ruffle his hair with an exhaled breath. You did good tonight, rider mine. Zoeth told me I was to be commended for keeping such a fine lad in the Weyr.


“Zoeth herself? Wow.” J’shon muttered. That was impressive because most queens didn’t speak to greens unless there was a real need, good or bad. Gold Pinath, who had hatched at the same time as Liliath hadn’t even spoken to his green at all. The junior weyrwoman was technically a weyrling, and she did join them for some aspects of their training, such as Ground Drills and the lessons in dragon healing, but she had other duties to learn when they were doing things like bagging firestone. He’d seen her practicing with a flamethrower recently, under the cautious eye of the two weyrwomen that were senior to her.

Queen’s couldn’t chew firestone, according to B’rrel. It was said chewing firestone was what made female dragons infertile, so unlike the greens who fought with the wings, flaming Thread from the sky, the queen dragons flew low, the riders used a flamethrower to incinerate whatever Thread leaked past the wings above. J’shon was almost jealous that Ramina had used a flamethrower already, when Liliath and the other young dragons hadn’t even taken their first flight, much less learned how to chew the phosphine-bearing firestone, and how to put it in their second stomach, enabling them to belch it out in bouts of flame.

I sleep now Liliath said with a satisfied sigh as she moved around on her stone perch for a bit before settling into a ball for sleeping, with her triangular head resting near her rear haunches. She closed all three sets of eyelids, darkening her eyes that had been glowing the faintest of blues in her contentment. In another six months, she’d reach well over two-thirds of her full growth, and their time in the Weyrling Barracks would be over.

Yesterday the Weyrlings from the clutch before theirs had cleaned out their barracks for the last time and selected their own weyrs along the rim of the volcano. Already Igen Weyr was filling up, and J’shon knew that when their time came, Liliath and him would probably have to choose one of the smaller weyrs at the highest levels. He’d gotten a ride up there with one of the older weyrlings on elevator duty. His entire wing of weyrlings had been sent up to help clean the upper-level weyrs that had been empty for at least the past hundred turns.

No one had complained about the duty, because it gave them an early chance to stake claims to whichever weyr they might want. J’shon had his eye on a small, but nice weyr along the southern rim. It was obviously intended for a green rider with a smaller couch, and it had a luxury lacking in many of the upper weyrs, a semi-private sanitary that emptied into a chute that connected to the main middens. B’rrel and K’mer were both arguing over who would claim the weyr that connected to the semi-private sanitary on the other side.

At least they had six more months before they had to decide which would succeed in staking that claim.

Like every other night since he’d Impressed Liliath, he fell asleep as soon as he’d used the bowl of water to clean his hands of the excess oil. He rarely noticed how, even after a good cleaning, the spicy smell of dragons filled his clothes or the weyr. Nor did he notice the sounds of the weyrlings who snored in their sleep, or the occasional scraping of hide against fur-covered stone as the young dragons jerked their limbs in their slumbering dreams.

What he did notice was the sudden keening that filled the air in the early hours of the morning. He practically jumped out of his cot and went to put his arms around Liliath, who was making a dreadful keening deep in her throat, her long neck stretched out towards the roof of the Barracks and her eyes whirling in yellow and red aggravation and grief. Around him all the other weyrlings were doing the same, trying to comfort the dragons.

Frinath is gone! Liliath’s grief-filled voice filled his mind after a few moments and he closed his own eyes as he hugged his green tight. If he remembered right, Frinath was an older bronze dragon. His rider was the oldest man in the weyr, having just passed his hundred and eighth turn last month.

“Is everyone alright in here?” S’lag’s voice expressed his concern, and grief. Moeth was outside, still keening along with all the other dragons in the weyr.

“What happened?” A’toly murmured softly as he stroked his bronze’s head.

“E’gar’s heart stopped in his sleep, as near as we can tell, and Frinath woke to find him already gone.” S’lag said softly, projecting calmness with his voice barely audible over the keening. The dragons started calming down after a bit, and Liliath snaked her neck over J’shon’s shoulder and heaved in a ragged breath. “It happens lads. Riders live long lives, but we all pass in the end, and our dragons go between.”

The weyr grieved officially the next day, and two of the largest bronzes carried away the body of the dead rider. His dragon had already gone between, and the body was taken there as well. The weyrling lessons for the morning were cancelled, but by mid-afternoon the weyrlings were in the lake with their dragons, and at least as far as the dragons were concerned, the death of the night before was long-forgotten.

“Watch it, green.” Ramina said forcefully from where she was busy scrubbing her golden Pinath’s haunches. Liliath had thrown him off her back with a wild leap, and he’d fallen at just the perfect angle to splash the gold rider and her dragon.

“Sorry, weyrwoman.” J’shon spluttered as he righted himself in the warm lake waters. It was the depth of winter, but here in Igen it was nice and warm still. For that it was almost worth living through the heat of summer.

“I’m not weyrwoman yet.” She muttered.

“I’m not really a green rider yet, either.” J’shon shot back with a smile and gave the gold dragon an appraising look. The queen was already bigger than either of the bronzes in their clutch. He knew how big both of the older queens were, and he knew the queens had a longer growth cycle than the fighting colors. “Wow, she’s growing so nicely. I bet she’ll be the biggest queen in the weyr when she reaches her full growth.”

“Yes, she will.” Ramina said with a fond look for her queen that suddenly reminded him of how he often looked at Liliath. “It’s good of you to notice. You’re J’shon, right, my brother’s little friend?”

“Yes.” J’shon said, gritting his teeth at the word ‘little’. “We haven’t really talked before.”

“You play very nicely.” Ramina said with a nod. “Now if you’ll excuse me, the bad side of Pinath being so big is that she takes longer to clean than your little green.”

“My pardon.” J’shon said with a bow of his head before heading back over to Liliath, who was heading back up to the sandy beach where she curled up in the triangle of space left for her by Ojeth and Sharth, who were reclining hindquarter to hindquarter in a ‘V’ shape. Both browns flexed a wing each, sheltering them over the little green to provide her a little shelter from the cool wind that was starting to blow.

“What are you going to do when she rises and Sharth tries to fly her?” O’lar, rider of bronze Potath leered from over J’shon’s shoulder as he climbed out of the lake.

“That won’t happen.” J’shon shot back with a little worried frown and quickened his pace to get away from the bronze rider.

“What did he say to you?” B’rrel snarled as soon as he saw the look on J’shon’s face. Both K’mer and B’rrel were reclining against the dragons, but B’rrel leaped to his feet.

“Just more of the same dung.” J’shon shook his head. “No need to get into another fight with him.”

“Don’t worry about him, J’shon.” N’sor, another of his clutch’s green riders said as he came trotting up from the lake, his green Sortath doing the peculiar hop, skip, hop which was how dragons walked on land. Dragon forelegs were shorter than their hind legs, and more like arms than legs. “He’s still sore he can’t sneak off with his girl, and Ramina won’t give him the time of day while she let’s – well, see for yourself.”

J’shon followed the nod of the other green rider’s head to see A’toly helping Ramina reach the last spots on Pinath’s back. He let out a little laugh and felt a sense of perverse pleasure at the thought that if A’toly and Ramina got along so well now, then it was more likely that A’toly’s Nikkoth would fly the queen in a few turns. Green dragons would rise around a turn after hatching, but the queens took longer to reach their growth and would often take between two and three turns before they rose the first time. Then again, who knew with Thread possibly on its way, and Pinath had already proved herself a most unusual gold. Most gold dragons Impressed girls who were not weyrbred, but Pinath had chosen Ramina, whose parents were Weyrleaders.

“He won’t find much sympathy amongst green riders either with his attitude.” J’shon muttered.

“Oh that, well you can always arrange substitutes for that type of situation, but I don’t know a one of us greens who’d want him in our cots.” N’sor said with derision clear in his voice. A couple of the rougher blue riders hung out with the bronze rider, but most of the weyrlings looked to A’toly to lead them when a weyrling had to step forward for their group.

“Thanks, N’sor.” J’shon said appreciatively before moving to lay down against Liliath. Her warm hide was comfortable and he soon found himself drowsing on the warm winter day, forgetting all about the awful experience of earlier in the day. No one liked to be reminded of their own mortality, or the mortality of dragons.

The death of any dragon had a negative effect on weyr life. For several days, all the dragons had a slightly gray tinge to their coloring, but that faded by the end of a sevenday. The whole experience gave J’shon a first-hand look of the importance of a dragon’s short-term memory because while the riders still remembered the death of the old rider, their dragons had long forgotten the experience.

The end of the turn saw the two-day holiday called Turnover being celebrated. J’shon performed many songs in the Weyr’s Lower Caverns on both days, and had a good time overall. Thanks to the visit by the Traders, J’shon and K’mer had been able to send gifts to their entire family, and since most of their every-day needs were taken care of by the Weyr, J’shon still had over half of the marks his parents had given him left over. Both young boys were pleased at the gifts sent by their parents, well-made belt knives for both of them, as well as new Gather tunics made by their mother and the other women of the hold.

The portrait of the family sent to Crivan by Kapian only made the celebrations sweeter, in J’shon’s opinion.

Two days into the new turn, J’shon was with the rest of the weyrlings by the tanner’s work area. Local holds provided most of the Weyr’s needs as a tithe for the protection of the weyr. That included herd beasts and domesticated wherries with clipped wings, as well as stacks of cured leather. The tanner was giving them a lecture on basic care for leather, as well as instructions on how to cut the leather to make riding straps. The straps would keep them on their dragons during flight, and their constant care and good condition was the responsibility of each and every rider.

Their first flights were now just a few sevendays away, and all the weyrlings were growing more and more excited each and every day. Some of the earlier lessons saw at least one weyrling drifting off, but not these. Ramina and Pinath were joining them for this lesson, since they would fly Thread with the Queen’s wing, catching whatever Thread was missed by the wings in higher altitudes.

If Thread falls. J’shon thought to himself for the hundredth time.

It will fall. Liliath said with conviction, and a hint of anger in her voice. He knew the anger wasn’t directed at him, but he leaned against her anyway, in a comforting gesture, and relaxed when the eye he could see lost its yellow tinge. The stench of firestone was still irritating his nostrils as it drifted over the bowl. The older weyrlings were flaming today, as they had been since the end of Turnover, learning to chew the rock that allowed a dragon to flame, and practicing flaming in formation flying, with older riders carrying painted ropes as their targets. The painted ropes were dangled dragonlengths downwards, so the weyrlings wouldn’t singe the older dragons.

Noooo! Liliath called out in agony, lifting on her haunches, splaying out her wings, stretching her neck and letting out the now familiar death keen. All the other weyrling dragons were doing the same, including golden Pinath, and the mature dragons all over the weyrs were adding to the heart-piercing, tooth-rattling keen. All the riders knew what had happened as the image passed from dragon to dragon, and from dragon to rider.

Two of the weyrlings practicing with their flame had misjudged a maneuver and nearly collided. The brown dragon had panicked and let out a burst of flame that had hit the blue dragon along its side, killing his rider instantly. The blue had swerved and headed into a collision with the brown before going between. The brown had panicked seeing the blue head right towards it, and off-kilter from realizing it had accidentally killed the other dragon pair, had gone between itself to avoid the collision.

The brown never returned from between.

“Everyone, get up!” H’mal’s voice rang out over the younger weyrlings who were trying to console their young dragons and make some sense of the images in their heads. The Weyrleader himself had leaped down the steps from his lower-level weyr, making way for the youngest weyrlings that had been left attended only by the Weyr’s tanner while S’lag and his two assistants concentrated on the older weyrlings and their exercises. At first his voice didn’t make any headway, but he grabbed Ramina and shook her gently. “Get your dragon under control, girl and tell her to calm the others down!”

Ramina took a deep breath, nodded at her father and Weyrleader, and turned to calm down her gold dragon, who slowed in her keening long enough to trumpet out a bugle to the other dragons of her clutch. All the dragons shook themselves at her calling to them, and the spell of trauma that had hung over the weyrlings was broken. They looked up to the gold rider, and the Weyrleader as if looking for lifelines.

“Now lads, get your dragons back to the Barracks.” H’mal said gently. “Oil them down and get them settled on their ledges. I’ll have a rider to come in and look at you in a bit.”

“Yes, Weyrleader.” A’toly said as he stood up and took a deep breath. Later, J’shon would remember this, and remember how it was the bronzes and the golds, as well as their riders that took charge. A’toly may still have been a weyrling, and he had grown barely a finger in height since Impressing, but it was he who led them back to their Barracks, and after taking care of his Nikkoth, went to each ledge to check on everyone. For once, not even O’lar had anything negative or sarcastic to say to the young bronze rider.

“I see everything is in order here.” The familiar voice of D’kov came from the doorway. The blue rider J’shon had first met at his father’s hold had been sent to check on them, and he nodded in approval at seeing A’toly talking softly to a weeping C’lier, whose green Melodeth was shaking in nervousness and bugling at the slightest sound. Under A’toly’s soft urging and reinforcement, C’lier gained control of his emotions, and they settled down the fidgeting Melodeth. Of all the dragons in their clutch, Melodeth was the most timid, often shaking at the slightest stress and bugling warnings when she thought she might hear a tunnel snake slithering around.

Many were the nights the Barracks would wake when she woke from deep sleep bugling out a warning that tunnel snakes were invading. The large reptiles that burrowed all throughout Pern and moved quickly on their six feet were common even in the weyrs, and there were regular hunting parties formed when they became too much of a nuisance, but they had yet to find one when Melodeth woke them in the middle of the night.

C’lier wasn’t much better for that matter. He had a scar on his arm from where a tunnel snake had gotten into his sleeping chamber as a child and taken a chunk out of him. His screaming had awakened his mother and one of his older brothers had run it off. He’d lived in Keroon before coming to Igen Weyr after Search, and was convinced half the caverns and weyrs in the volcanic dome were filled with the creatures.

Much of the day passed in a daze for the weyrlings, as well as the rest of the Weyr. S’lag and his two assistants were badly shaken, and lacked confidence in their ability to continue training the young weyrlings. H’mal assigned an older bronze rider, approaching his ninetieth birthday to the younger group of weyrlings for the next few days and the Wingleaders picked two more brown riders to watch over the older weyrlings who were grieving the loss of two of their number. The next day, J’shon joined Crivan and Warnel in playing several songs in remembrance of the two weyrlings and their dragons.

Even the excitement of preparations for the imminent Hatching did little to improve the mood of the Weyr. Weyrleaders from Telgar and Benden showed up the next day, to bolster H’mal and Febrina. Every time another gold dragon came into the weyr, Willeth bugled challenges from where she brooded over the clutch of thirty-four eggs that were nearly hardened on the sands of the Hatching Ground. All of the Weyr’s dragons were gray-tinged in their grief, but after a day of grieving, lessons began again, with a subdued S’lag taking over once again.

It was obvious from the way he stressed caution even more in everything they did that he was still shaken by the loss, but as before, the dragons gradually forgot the awful event as the days went by, and once again the Weyr recovered from the loss. Igen Weyr, so close to the desert didn’t see the horrible snows that racked the Northern Continent of Pern that year, but they did see an unusual amount of rainfall. Twice, as First Month turned to Second, the lake filled almost to overflowing from rainwater, and the ledges where dragons usually sunned themselves became waterfalls flooding the bowl of the volcanic crater. For two days, the Lower Caverns were awash in water until H’mal ordered the filling of bags with sand to keep the water out until it could drain out of the bowl.

Word came of fishermen reporting volcanoes spewing ash and fire in the Eastern Sea, and more predictions of imminent Threadfall were confirmed. The old records said the ground would shake, the winter would see awful storms, and volcanoes would erupt (although comfortingly enough they also reassured that the volcanoes housing the Weyrs would not erupt again).

Willenth’s clutch had hatched nine days after the two weyrlings had died. The last Weyrling Barracks was now filled with twelve new green dragons, eight blue dragons, five browns, and nine bronzes. There hadn’t been a gold egg in this clutch, but the entire Weyr rejoiced at the large number of bronzes. J’shon had watched the hatching sitting with K’mer, Crivan, and both of his parents who had been invited and brought by D’kov.

For some reason, no one was brave enough to even mention, none of J’shon’s siblings had come to this hatching. Still, even his father enjoyed watching the eggs break apart, and dragons pairing with their riders. Each time a lad had Impressed, he found himself reliving that wonderful moment when Liliath had chosen him over the others still on the Hatching Grounds.

Who else would I have chosen? Liliath reminded him. There is no other who suits me as you, or who suits you as I.

After the Hatching, J’shon and K’mer talked with their parents while the Lower Caverns were prepared for the upcoming feast. Kapian said the plains were snowed in for the first time in known history, and they had suffered three more ground quakes. While they waited, he’d asked to see Liliath and Sharth, and had been downright solicitous about how the two dragons had grown. Looking deep in his father’s eyes, J’shon knew that for the first time, his father doubted his belief that Thread would not fall, and that shook J’shon to the core.

“I’m sorry, but he’s a little too drunk to go between.” D’kov told Serece a little later that evening. J’shon had watched his father while entertaining as usual with the two Harpers. Kapian had been draining more than one wineskin throughout the night as he sat near the Weyrleader and the Lords of Igen and Keroon. What they were talking about, J’shon wasn’t sure, but he had some guesses. With all the revelry of the new hatching winding down, he reached his Barracks later that night and didn’t even bother undressing before passing out on his cot. Their father had returned to his hold the next day, and the Weyr returned to a more even keel after the happiness that a Hatching brought on.

By the middle of the second month of the new turn, every weyrling in J’shon’s clutch was growing impatient for their first flight. High winds, repeated storms, and generally cloudy skies meant that the now overly-cautious S’lag kept on putting off their first flights. He even grounded many of the older weyrlings from elevator duty because of the erratic winds whipping through the bowl.

D’kov replaced O’rel as the assistant assigned to their group while the older bronze rider assisted S’lag with the newest group of weyrlings, whose awkward efforts often provided the older weyrlings a few laughs. Liliath, like all the dragons of their group refused to believe she had ever been as awkward as the newly hatched dragons. By the middle of the Second Month, even D’kov was grumbling about S’lag’s caution with the weyrlings.

“I know losing two like that would hit anyone hard, but this is getting ridiculous!” J’shon overheard D’kov complaining to his weyrmate S’flin one night exactly halfway through Second Month. The weyrling had lost most of his uncomfortable feelings around the green rider, and had actually started to think of him as a friend. S’flin was barely twenty turns, and was one of the Weyr’s best artists with charcoal drawings and sketches. He had an easy laugh, and an amiable attitude that had begun to win J’shon over. Rarely did more than two or three days pass without some green rising and while he still rarely thought about what would happen when Liliath rose, he was no longer as embarrassed by that fact of life in a Weyr.

“The weather has been awful.” S’flin responded carefully. “You know Jenth wrenched her wing when she rose this morning.”

“Yes, but that’s a mating flight.” D’kov retorted, dismissing the injury to the green. It had been a close thing, but brown Tilonth had caught her, and broken her fall as they mated. Their riders hadn’t even known of the injury until the green woke hours later in a great deal of pain. “They flew much higher than any weyrling will on their first flight.”

“Still, the weather will clear soon, or at least I hope it will.” S’flin said with a slight hitch in his voice and J’shon had backed off quietly as the two riders began to murmur in each other’s ears. He knew they were being romantic, and as accustomed as he was becoming to life in a Weyr, he was still uncomfortable seeing two men be affectionate. It was one thing when the green rose, and J’shon had already seen the signs in Tabath earlier in the day, but he still couldn’t understand how two male riders would carry that affection past the immediate needs of the flight. Tabath would probably rise in the next few days. He’d seen the same signs already when Zoeth had stuck her head out of her weyr earlier in the day.

Igen’s senior queen would be rising tomorrow, and J’shon had quickly bet six marks on that fact with one of the older weyrlings whose father was a Master Miner. He could get a nice sapphire in return when he won the bet. This was one secret he’d been keeping so far.

Everyone knew the legends of gold riders who could hear every dragon on Pern. Well, any dragon could speak to anyone they wanted as long as they possessed some of the ability that made riders special. That was how J’shon heard Moeth and Aliarth before he’d Impressed. They had chosen to speak to him. Some Weyrwoman, according to legend, could hear any dragon whether they spoke to her or not. He couldn’t do that, he knew, but somehow he was finding that he could look at a female dragon and know if she was rising in the next four or five days. Even if it was five days away, he somehow knew which day the dragon would rise, and he’d even guess the time of day within an hour or two.

Since betting on when a queen rose was about the only form of gambling allowed to weyrlings riders, he was taking advantage of that.

The day after the overhead conversation, J’shon woke and peeked out the entrance of the barracks. All the windows were still shuttered from the recent storms, but he opened the door and smiled. Today would be the day, he knew it in his bones.

“How is it?” A’toly’s voice came from behind him and he turned to make room for the bronze rider.

“Look for yourself.” J’shon whispered in return, cautious about waking the other weyrlings.

“Bright, no clouds in the sky and calm as can be.” A’toly breathed with relief. “There’s no way old S’lag can deny us our first flights today.”

“Be nice.” J’shon said softly. “How would you feel if two people you were responsible for died like that.”

“You’re right.” A’toly said with a sigh.

Do we fly today? Liliath asked him. I wish to fly today, with you, as rider and dragon the way we were meant to be. Then I want to eat. Then we can swim and you can clean me. I don’t itch yet, but I know I will itch later, in my shoulders and right above my tail. You oiled it good, but I know it will itch later.

“We should fly today, dear.” J’shon replied with a smile and A’toly whispered something similar to his bronze. J’shon crossed back to where his green was stretching on her ledge and got out the jar of oil. If they flew today, it would be good to have her well-oiled since the Weyrlingmaster would look over each dragon carefully before allowing them to fly.

Get the straps, Moeth says today is the day! Lilith cried out and even bugled, waking all the other weyrlings. No one complained though, once they heard her news. J’shon got the riding straps he had plaited himself out from under his cot, and began to go over them carefully.

He had learned his lessons in caution from the death of the two weyrlings, and wasn’t going to risk his, or his dragon’s hide. These straps were brand new, but he still checked them for frayed edges, or any signs of wear that would cause them to tear. He ran his hand over the chest pads that would keep the leather from scratching Liliath’s hide, and when he was done he laid them out carefully on his cot, quickly straightening the blankets just enough to pass muster from D’kov’s likely inspection.

The blue rider had an absolute fetish about things being clean.

“B’rrel, C’riel, and O’lar, get the buckets cleaned out.” A’toly said once everyone was up and had given their dragons the attention they needed this morning. Technically, A’toly wasn’t in charge, but the three he named off were all on punishment detail for one reason or another, and set about carrying out the buckets that were at the foot of each dragon’s ledge. The dragons would put their tail over the bucket and defecate, and while he had grown somewhat use to the smell, J’shon set about opening the shutters on the barracks windows to let some clean air inside. N’sor and K’mer joined him in the task, and when S’lag entered a few minutes later, he nodded his approval at the industriousness of the weyrlings.

“Get a move on, boys.” S’lag said gruffly. “The weather looks good this morning and its about time to see how you fly.”

The cheers at those words almost brought a smile to his face as he walked down the rows of cots and ledges, looking over the dragons. He nodded at seeing J’shon’s straps laid out and looked them over, nodding in approval before he moved on to K’mer’s cot. A hot breakfast of porridge with fresh bread practically disappeared as the weyrlings barely paused while inhaling the food. The quicker they ate, the sooner they’d be in the middle of the bowl, ready to fly for the first time.

You do not chew enough. Liliath told her rider in mock concern. You will choke.

“Do you want to fly today or not?” J’shon growled, getting an amused glance from his brother.

“What’s she complaining about?” K’mer asked him with a smile.

“I’m not chewing enough.” J’shon said before biting into a breakfast role and purposely making a show of chewing it while his brother and B’rrel laughed. The entire barracks knew of his constant arguments with Liliath about chewing her food.

“Pity they don’t forget everything.” B’rrel said around a mouthful of porridge.

“For some reason they always seem to remember the most awkward things.” K’mer added while J’shon’s shoulders shook with laughter. Soon enough they were done, and had returned to their barracks for their dragons and riding gear. Every weyrling had helped to make his personal flying gear. Stiff wher-hide pants, long fur-lined jackets, helmets, as well as the wide leather belts they would use to fasten their safety lines to their dragons were donned quickly, and they marched as a group, with their dragons doing the typical hop-skip-jump that was the gate of dragons on the ground. The Weyrlingmaster had them line up, each with his dragon next to him, and carefully inspected them while Ramina worked with the senior weyrwomen nearby. They, not S’lag would be helping her and gold Pinath fly today.

“Okay, we’re going to go by the colors first.” S’lag said after he’d inspected each dragon and their gear. Moeth was nearby, watching with rapidly whirling eyes of green and blue while Aliarth waited further down the field near D’kov. “When I call you out, you will step forward and attach the riding straps to your dragon before mounting. Once I have inspected them, and your seat on the dragon, I will give you the signal for takeoff. Take it slow and easy. First flights are never high or far – just a few wingbeats and then glide to a landing near where D’kov is standing. No turning, nothing but a straight flight from here to there. Is that understood?”

“Yes Weyrlingmaster!” They all shouted at once and for just a moment, his face lifted in a half-smile.

“Good, then let’s start.” S’lag roared. “A’toly and O’lar, front and center!”

The two bronzes, who now stood head and shoulders above their riders stepped forward. A’toly looked so small next to his big bronze, but under the careful eye of S’lag he easily looped his riding straps over Nikkoth and jumped up on the dragon’s foreleg before using the straps to climb up between the first and second neck ridges, the rider’s position. O’lar took a few minutes longer, and looked disgruntled that once again A’toly had outperformed him. Still, after S’lag had checked both of them out, he called out for A’toly to go first. When the Weyrlingmaster raised his arm in the air, swung it in a circle before pumping it in the liftoff gesture, A’toly let out a shout of pure joy and Nikkoth reared on his hindquarters before jumping into the air, unfurling his wings as he leapt.

The wings beat once, and then twice, providing just enough lift for the large bronze to get almost a dragonlength in the air before the wings locked into the long-practiced glide position and he came in for an almost-perfect landing right next to Aliarth. The entire class broke into a cheer, and they were joined by several experienced riders watching from their weyrs all along the bowl. Confined to the Weyr by the bad weather, the riders were enjoying watching the weyrlings take their first flight.

“Perfect!” S’lag shouted, and this time there was a full smile on his face. He turned to O’lar and gave the signal again. O’lar’s Potath jumped into the air as O’lar kicked his heels against the dragon. This time the dragon beat his wings four times, climbing almost two dragon lengths before realizing he was about to overshoot Aliarth, who bugled a warning at him. Potath settled his wings into a dive instead of a glide position and slammed heavily into the ground. D’kov rushed over, checking both dragon and rider while S’lag started cursing.

“They’re fine, just a little shook up!” D’kov yelled a moment later and some color returned to S’lag’s face. He turned to face the weyrlings with a haunted look in his face before calling out K’mer and B’rrel. After they had mounted and been checked, S’lag winced while giving the signal for B’rrel to make his flight.

B’rrel liked his jokes, but today he was all seriousness as he calmly nodded before his brown Ojeth lifted off into the air with a smooth leap. His wingbeats were firm, although his glide was a little rocky. Still, he landed at the exact right spot far more smoothly than Nikkoth had, much less Potath. B’rrel had been born to dragon riders, so J’shon wasn’t surprised at his competent first flight.

“No one’s expecting you to do it as well as that, lad.” S’lag said encouragingly to K’mer before signaling him to take off. While his landing wasn’t as good, Sharth made the flight easily, and J’shon cheered for his brother, who turned to wave back at him. Next up were the blues, and while none crashed as spectacularly as O’lar, there were a few near mishaps. All in all though, everything had gone fairly well.

“J’shon and N’sor, you’re next!” S’lag called out when the last blue had made his flight.

“You ready love?” J’shon asked as he tossed the first strap over her back.

I was born ready. Liliath said. I’ve just had to wait on you.

“Well, no more waiting.” J’shon said while concentrating to make sure he got the straps right. When he was certain, he leaped on her leg before climbing up her side. She wasn’t nearly as tall as the bronzes, so he had less distance to go before he was on her back for the first time. Long practice made it easy to clip on the safety lines, and while S’lag looked over his arrangements, he looked around.

He’d been on dragonback before, but this was different. Here he was, sitting on the back of his dragon, ready to take their first flight. When he’d Impressed Liliath, he’d known he’d never be alone again. She loved him in a way that he could never have imagined before. Now, today, though, he felt like they really were complete for the first time, a dragon and his rider.

We are complete. Liliath assured him. Today we fly, tomorrow we fly more, and every day from now until the end, we go together.

“Yes we do, love.” J’shon said as S’lag gave the arm pump for take off and let out a whoop of joy as Liliath leapt into the air. He was thrown back by the force of her launch, but his straps kept him in place as she beat her wings twice, gaining a decent altitude before locking them and gliding into a perfect landing next to the waiting blue dragon. Aliarth bugled in triumph, for the first time of any of the flights, and his whirling eyes fixed on J’shon.

I told you one day you will fly Thread with us.. Aliarth’s male voice, so different than Liliath’s gentle female voice rang in his head and he stared at the dragon before nodding. He was surprised the dragon remembered, but then, when it came to being ready to fight Thread, it seemed the dragons remembered more and more.

You and I will fly against Thread, as rider and dragon. Liliath added her own assurances while looking at the blue with a sharp gaze. He is my rider, you may fly alongside us.

“Oh my.” D’kov said with a laugh, having overhead the conversation. He motioned for J’shon to dismount, and as he slid down Liliath’s side, J’shon realized he was laughing aloud.

©1967-2022 Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey; All Rights Reserved; Dragonriders of Pern is Copyrighted by Ann McCaffrey and her fine folks. This story belongs to dkstories.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction that combine worlds created by the original content owner with names, places, characters, events, and incidents that are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, companies, events or locales are entirely coincidental. Authors are responsible for properly crediting Original Content creator for their creative works. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Dragonriders of Pern series was created by Ann McCaffrey in 1967 and spans 24+ books published by Ballantine Books, Atheneum Books, Bantam Books, and Del Rey Books.  Any recognizable content in this story is from Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey or their representatives or inheritors.  Original content provided by author of this FanFiction story without monetary compensation.
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Awesome heartwarming partnership and perfect first flight. I can tell already that they are something special...cheers...Gary

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