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Recognized characters/events/plots from Dragonriders of Pern belong to Ann McCaffrey

Empty, Open, Dusty, Dead - 1. A Meeting at Fort Weyr

After three months, Zalna was only just becoming used to the rhythm of life without Threadfall to interrupt the routine of the Weyr every few days. Over the winter, it hadn’t made a huge difference; Benden Weyr was far enough north that many of the Falls would have been non-viable due to freezing temperatures. Weyrleader N’rax, ever cautious, sent out regular patrols just in case but nothing out of the ordinary was reported. Zalna herself could see that the Red Star was steadily dwindling in the evening sky. Thread really had gone, for her her lifetime, at least.

Turn’s End had been a real celebration; greater than she’d ever experienced. As N’rax read out the traditional list of those who had died during the last Turn, she realised that from now on, there would be far fewer names to recite. Weyrfolk were generally healthy and lived long lives without Thread taking its toll.

As she made her way through the muddy slush of the Bowl toward the ground level dragon weyrs, she wondered how D’gar was coping. On her last visit, she’d promised to return soon, but sevendays passed so quickly. There had been so many tasks and duties keeping her busy. Maybe now Turn’s End was out of the way, she’d get the chance? The idea of basking on one of Southern Boll’s beaches, soaking up the sun, appealed equally to Gemalth and herself.

This morning, she was meeting Arbruthol, the Weyr’s senior dragon healer. They had a few patients to check over. Green Suyarth had received her wing score in the very last Fall. While Arbruthol had worked on an equally badly injured brown dragon, she’d completed the reconstruction almost unaided. What would her lady mother have said if she’d known all of that painstaking needlework practice had enabled her daughter to neatly mend dragon hide? Well, she didn’t really care. It was far more useful and practical than making decorative items no one ever even looked at.

Five dragons were settled in their comfortable weyrs. For two of them, this would be a permanent home, due to severely constrained flying ability. Their riders were both young and happy to help. One was wheeling a barrow of dragon dung out as she and Arbruthol walked in.

‘Sorry, weyrwoman,’ he said quickly.

‘Not at all,’ she assured him. ‘Where there’s dragons, there’s dung.’ Sometimes, folk seemed to think gold riders didn’t need to perform all of the usual dragon care tasks. There had been times she’d envied the green riders, having so much less hide to bathe and oil as their dragons grew rapidly.

Arbruthol watched him leave. ‘Gr’balt’s a good lad,’ he said. ‘He knows Hakerth won’t be doing much flying for a good while, but he hasn’t let it get either of them down.’

‘It’s sad, though.’ Zalna remembered T’kes at Fort, whose blue had suffered a similar injury. ‘Them being so young, too.’

‘Youngsters adapt more easily.’ He led the way to Suyarth’s weyr, where her rider, Z’von, was diligently oiling the frail new hide that had grown to cover the Threadscored area. As always, Zalna marvelled at the way dragons recovered so well. She’d had to stitch the remaining hide over cloth, supported by long canes. The framework had only recently been removed.

‘You’re getting good at this, weyrwoman,’ Arbruthol said, in his usual gruff tones. ‘I reckon she’ll be in the air again come spring.’

‘Really?’ Z’von asked.

‘Oh, yes,’ Arbruthol confirmed. Once it’s a bit warmer and the hide’s grown thicker, we’ll get her exercising it in the lake. But it’s doing well, thanks to my apprentice here.’

Z’von beamed at Zalna.

‘Just as I master a task, it becomes a redundant skill.’

He shrugged. ‘Not entirely. Dragons still manage to injure themselves without Thread’s help. Remember that last green flurry?’

He used the Benden term for the mass mating flights that sometimes occurred when several green dragons’ cycles synchronised and they all rose to mate at the same time. A few of the greens and their suitors had been injured in the frantic mêlée above the Weyr, mostly wing strains, bumps and scrapes. ‘True.’

‘Then they’ll start the Spring Games again. Always a few injuries in those, so the records show. Still, I’m glad I’ll never have to stitch together another shredded wing. But I’ll always be happy to have your help. D’you fancy coming up to our weyr tomorrow evening? U’bron and I are having a little get together?’

‘Sounds good.’

‘T’san will be there, you know.’

She slapped his arm in a friendly way. ‘Stop it, you. You’re always trying to pair me off.’

‘Well, he does like you.’

‘I know. And I like him, too.’ She sighed. ‘I just don’t know if I want to get involved with anyone.’

‘No one’s asking you to be his weyrmate. Just get to know the lad. Have a chat. Maybe a bit more, if it goes well…’ He smiled.

‘We’ll see.’ Zalna took her leave and headed back across the Bowl, pulling her oiled leather coat tighter against the sleet shower currently sweeping over Benden. It was getting towards lunchtime and she’d promised to have a bite to eat with Morna in her weyr. As she made her way across the landing ground she saw the Weyrleader mounted up on his dragon, as bundled up against the cold and wet as she was. He raised a hand briefly in greeting before Bidralth sprang into the air. Wherever he was off to, it must be important to go flying in such foul weather.

Nonath, Benden’s senior queen, lay curled on her heated couch. Like rider, like dragon, Zalna thought. Morna hated the cold equally as much. As she pushed aside the heavy curtain separating the dragon’s quarters from the Weyrwoman’s apartments, the change in temperature was noticeable. Morna kept her living space much warmer than Zalna’s, but then the older woman suffered badly from joint ache during Benden’s long, damp winter, so who could blame her.

Morna was sitting in her favourite chair, as close to the warm air duct as she could get. Several glow baskets were arranged close by, giving her sufficient light to work on a piece of intricate embroidery. Her fingers looked red and painful. ‘Good to see you, girl.’ She set it aside gratefully as Zalna entered. ‘Gives me an excuse to stop trying to do such fiddly work.’

‘Maybe we should have a trip away from this damp and cold. Nerat or Southern Boll would be pleasant, even this early in the Turn. Or Ista, of course.’ She wondered if that was where N’rax had been heading. Weyrleaders meetings were often held in the balmy climate of the island Weyr, particularly in the winter.

‘Yes, but there’s all that wrapping up to be done before we can fly. Nonath doesn’t like getting her wings wet if she can avoid it. I don’t know if either of us can be bothered, to be frank with you.’ The Weyrwoman sighed. ‘And to think just a few months ago, we were up there in all conditions, each Fall.’

‘We didn’t have the choice, then.’ Zalna took off her coat and hung it carefully where it could drip onto stone rather than one of the many colourful rugs covering most of the floor. Morna gestured for her to sit on the couch. It was strewn with several of her artfully embroidered cushions, also in vibrant colours. ‘Is that why you didn’t fancy going with N’rax today?’

Morna frowned. ‘I wasn’t invited. It’s Weyrleaders only and at Fort rather than Ista. We only had word of it yesterday evening. Can’t think what that’s about.’

‘Oh dear.’ Zalna knew instinctively it must be bad news. The Weyrleaders and Weyrwomen generally met a few times each Turn, but their scheduled meetings were always arranged well in advance. Until recently, they’d had to be, to ensure no one was due to fight Thread that day.

‘My thoughts as well. I do hope it’s nothing too serious, but the messenger would say very little.’

‘Intriguing.’ They chatted for a while, mingling Weyr business with gossip, until Zalna’s belly gave an audible rumble.

‘Time for some food, I reckon,’ Morna said, getting to her feet a little stiffly. ‘What do you fancy?’

‘A nice, warming bowl of soup with fresh bread, please.’

Morna hobbled over to the service shaft and called down her order to the kitchens. In a few minutes, both women were sitting at the table, steaming bowls and mugs of hot klah in front of them.

‘Well, whatever it is this meeting’s about, I’ll find out later. What’s the betting they’ll have had too much wine without us women there to moderate their intake? You know what men are like when they get together.’

Zalna did, all too well. ‘Arbruthol is trying to set me up with T’san,’ she commented, blowing on a spoonful of the rich, meaty broth to cool it.

Morna chuckled. ‘He’s a nice lad. Similar age as you and a bronze rider. Good looking, too. You could do a lot worse.’

Zalna supped her soup. She supposed that was right. She’d had a few liaisons over the Turns, but she’d never met another man she could stand being with full time. There was no one like K’torl.

‘Didn’t his Huylonth almost catch Gemalth?’

‘Almost.’ The mating flight had been a close one, but eventually experience had won out over enthusiasm and it had been Gr’cha’s Banuth who’d flown her. Gr’cha was a considerate and skilled bedmate, who fortunately had no more desire than she did to settle down. Once the flight was done, so was any further need to spend time with him.

‘He’ll make a fine Weyrleader one day.’ Morna chewed a piece of bread thoughtfully.

‘But N’rax is still relatively young,’ she protested. The Weyrleader was a good ten Turns Morna’s junior.

‘I’ll be retired before he is, that’s for sure. Nonath’s clutch sizes have been steadily going down.’

‘So have Gemalth’s and she’s in her prime. Isn’t it to do with the Pass ending?’

Morna nodded. ‘In part. We know that queens start laying larger clutches more frequently at the beginning of a Pass, so it stands to reason they’ll slow down once the need for all those extra dragons is over. But we’re both getting past it. I wouldn’t mind handing over and transferring to somewhere warm and sunny. And N’rax has been Weyrleader for a long time now. He’s seen too many men and dragons die over the Turns.’

Zalna considered this while she carried on eating. She was the youngest of Benden’s three gold riders, but everyone knew that Cassaru never wanted to take up the mantle of Weyrwoman. She was content to bury herself in the archives, preferring the company of dusty records to people. Morna had been quietly preparing her for the role ever since she’d come to Benden. It was just, she’d always supposed that her time would come in some misty, far off future. Now it seemed as if Morna was getting closer to handing over the reins of power. Still, after getting the Weyr through the Pass, she supposed the older woman deserved a rest. As did N’rax, if that was what he wanted.

Morna chuckled. ‘You should see your face! Don’t worry, I won’t be dumping it all on you for a few Turns yet. But you know it’s going to happen one day and it would be good for you to have a partner you like and can trust at your side. Makes it far less lonely.’

‘I suppose so,’ she agreed. Arbruthol and U’bron’s gatherings were always fun. There’d be music, lively conversation and good food. It wouldn’t do any harm to chat with T’san. She’d soon find out if they had anything in common, apart from having both Impressed dragons. ‘Anyway, that’s for the future. I’m off to get some sun. Sure I can’t tempt you?’

‘No, I’ll be fine here. By the time you get back, so should N’rax. Then we can all discuss whatever it is that meeting’s been about. Tithes, in all probability.’ The Weyrwoman snorted. ‘Thread’s been gone less than four months and some of those ungrateful Holders are quibbling already.’

‘Why doesn’t that surprise me? Anyway, I’ll see you later.’

Gemalth was already waiting for her. I am looking forward to stretching my wings, she said. And feeling some sun on my hide.

Zalna changed swiftly into her riding leathers and packed a bag with a few essentials. She visualised the little cove in Southern Boll, with a gentle turquoise sea washing against the pebbly beach. How about a trip there? she suggested.

That would be perfect. Gemalth’s mind sang with draconic contentment. And we could visit Fort, too.

It mightn’t be a bad idea. She could see D’gar again and perhaps speak to J’rud, too. They could arrange another trip to the beach, in the next sevenday or so. It would do him good.

Zalna threw on a simple neck strap. There was no need for anything more elaborate as she wasn’t planning any aerobatics. Gemalth sent a quick message to the watch dragon, huddled miserably beside the Star Stones and they climbed steadily into the swirling cloud before going between.

Anywhere felt warm by comparison with that frozen blackness but the caress of the soft, humid air as they burst out over the sea was doubly welcome. As they descended, Zalna wondered if living in such a harsh climate would mean that she too became riddled with joint ache at a relatively early age. Morna was only in her fifties, after all and she didn’t recall so many middle-aged riders at Fort suffering as there were at Benden. Still, now no one would have to spend several chilly hours fighting Thread on a regular basis, maybe there’d be less of it.

Gemalth landed lightly on the beach, crouching to let Zalna dismount. She unfastened the strap, then stood clear as the dragon launched herself joyfully into the sea. She made a huge splash as she dived in, then surfaced, blowing out water from her nostrils before flapping her wings to further disturb the waves.

Are you going to join me?

It might be a little chilly for human skin, dearest. I’ll sit on these rocks and enjoy the sun.

She unpacked a blanket and cushion, found a flat topped rock and made herself comfortable while Gemalth continued to play. Even so early in the Turn, spring was already well advanced in Southern Boll. She’d visited this beach many a time when she’d been at Fort. It was accessible only on dragon back - or, she supposed by boat - and far enough from any human habitation to ensure privacy. She and K’torl had enjoyed the place, letting their dragons swim while they sunbathed. It had been their favoured getaway, where she didn’t have to play the role of dutiful young weyrwoman and they could both forget, for a while, the ravages of Thread on their friends. She let her mind drift back to a picnic here with D’gar and S’brin, just before K’torl was promoted to Wingsecond. Shortly before his untimely death, too. Now S’brin had also gone. So many young lives had been lost. So many dragons gone between forever. It was no wonder N’rax felt like retiring.

D’gar been so good to her after K’torl’s untimely death; had been one of the main reasons she’d got through those awful months leading up to Gemalth’s first mating flight without falling apart. S’brin had always tried to make her laugh when he’d visited. Without him, D’gar had seemed like a husk of his former self. She knew all too well how that felt; those months of forcing herself to go through the motions of daily life when all she really wanted to do was curl up in her weyr and weep.

The sun warmed her all the way through, relaxing both mind and body. She needed to remember how good it could be to get away from the Weyr for some time of her own. Zalna lay back and watched a few fluffy white clouds float past. In the back of her mind, she registered Gemalth’s interest in observing the small shoals of fish swimming around her. Time passed by in unhurried fashion, until eventually she realised that if they were to go to Fort - and get back to Benden before the early winter darkness fell - she would need to move on.

Gemalth didn’t object, either. She looked forward to seeing her old clutchmates again. The greens have the best gossip, she said to Zalna, before they went between. Seeing Tooth Crag below her always felt like coming home. It had been the first ever landmark she and Gemalth had memorised back when they’d been learning to fly between.

It was colder at Fort Weyr than at the beach, although still bright and sunny; a crisp winter day unlike the low grey cloud that too often surrounded Benden. As always, a small part of her mind regretted the move. After K’torl had died, she’d felt it necessary, if only to leave behind all the memories. Even though the weather at Benden might be bad, she’d blossomed there under Morna’s guidance, instead of shrivelling beneath Mardra’s cold gaze.

Gemalth announced herself to the watch dragon, a distinctive dark blue with a long-healed but obviously injured wing. Neyrenth greets us, Gemalth said, as T’kes, his rider, waved at her. There were a few dragons up on the heights, making the most of the low-angled sunshine. Zalna noticed several bronzes among them, as Gemalth recognised Bidralth. Evidently the Weyrleaders meeting was still in progress. There was an unfamiliar queen close to them; not one of the Fort golds. An unusually large queen. Could she be the one they’d been asking about a month or so past?

Gemalth landed outside the dining hall, furling her wings neatly. Zalna supposed she should - out of courtesy - pay her respects to Mardra first and asked Gemalth to bespeak Loranth, who was staring out imperiously from her weyr ledge.

Loranth’s rider asks the purpose of our visit today. I tell her that we wish to see old friends. She is not happy with us.

Zalna sighed. Why was Mardra always so difficult? She looked around, finding her eyes drawn, as always, to the dark mouth of an empty weyr in the south facing wall of the Bowl, which K’torl had occupied for the last few months of his short life. D’gar and S’brin’s weyr was on a higher level and in the shadow at this time of day.

‘What brings you here, Zalna?’ Mardra’s abrupt tone drew her from her reverie. Zalna looked down at the Weyrwoman, noticing a few more streaks of grey in her dark hair, her sharp features displaying annoyance.

‘Oh, just a trip to visit a few…’

Mardra cut her off. ’N’rax hasn’t been gossiping, has he?’

‘About what?’

‘It doesn’t matter.’

Zalna felt a little annoyed. Mardra wasn’t her senior any more, yet somehow she always felt like the shy Holdbred girl she hadn’t been for so many Turns when confronted by her. ‘I know N’rax is attending a meeting here, but I don’t intend to go poking my nose in where I’m not invited.’

Mardra seemed to relax slightly. ‘Well, please yourself. Although T’ron and I would appreciate being given some notice if you intend to visit again.’

If that was how she wanted to play it, then Zalna wouldn’t give her any cause to complain. ‘Of course.’ People were always visiting other Weyrs. It wasn’t unreasonable and now that the fear of Thread had gone, she suspected there would be a lot more to-ing and fro-ing, especially once the better weather came. Maybe that was what was bothering Mardra?

‘Well, I’d better get on,’ Mardra said brusquely. ‘Some of us have work to do.’ She bustled off toward the infirmary.

You do not like Loranth’s rider, Gemalth said, stating the obvious.

I’m afraid not. We never really got on. Even after she’d Impressed, no one had given her much help to learn the ways of the Weyr. Until that morning her young and clumsy dragon had stumbled on their way to the lake, getting her forelimbs tangled with a wing as she tried to right herself. It had been D’gar - just a weyrling himself back then - who had helped. Initially, she’d been suspicious of his motives, based on all the rumours she’d heard about weyrfolk, but he’d been the perfect gentleman. She’d been slightly disappointed when he’d mentioned a weyrmate and her Holdbred sensibilities had been disturbed to find the weyrmate was male, but she’d been at Fort Weyr for long enough by then to realise such relationships were not only accepted, but commonplace. In any case, if she’d not started talking to D’gar, he’d never have introduced her to K’torl. Once again, her eyes were drawn to the weyr opening where bronze Ganath used to perch.

She sighed, relegating those memories to the past. Tell Herebeth we’re coming to visit, she relayed, before Gemalth took off, ferrying her to his ledge.

I am going up to the heights, she announced. Plenty of dragons to talk with.

Mats and tapestries had been laid out on the ledge and voices came from inside the weyr; the sound of folk chatting amiably. ‘Hello,’ she called out. ‘Anyone there?’ She didn’t want to just walk in on them.

‘Come on in,’ D’gar replied.

J’rud made some comment about putting their clothes back on, but she could tell from the laughter in his voice he was only joking.

‘Take no notice of him,’ D’gar said. ‘We’re just cleaning.’

Zalna went through. D’gar looked far better than he had last time she saw him; still too thin, but not as unkempt. He wore a clean shirt and trousers and his hair had recently been cut. Good signs.

He came over to hug her. ‘Good to see you again.’

‘We’ve just been to the beach, so I thought I’d drop in on the way back to Benden. Sorry I didn’t get over to see you again before before Turn’s End…’

‘It’s fine. I know how time can fly past.’

Zalna wondered if D’gar and J’rud had got over their differences now. If they were together again? They’d had an arrangement when S’brin was alive and it had always been clear how J’rud felt about D’gar. She didn’t like to ask straight out, though. It might seem insensitive.

‘We’re having an early spring clean,’ J’rud offered. ‘It gets so dusty here, as you probably remember. ‘

‘He got Zurinth to beat the dust out of the mats and tapestries with her tail. Then the dragons decide to make a game of it. It was quite a sight.’ D’gar sounded more like his old self, too.

‘I shall have to remember to call on you when my weyr needs a clean,’ she said to J’rud. ‘Are you still moving furniture for people?’

He nodded. ‘Mostly in the better weather. Although M’rell and D’gar might be moving soon, when they’re confirmed as permanent Wingseconds.’

‘My congratulations.’

D’gar shrugged. ‘It’s more of an “if” than “when”. I’m not holding my breath.’

‘Still, I’m sure you made a good job of it.’

‘We were in the right place at the right time. No special skills involved. And with I’grast getting a Wing of his own it was bound to happen.’

She wondered what had happened to N’rir. Best not to ask. ‘You’re too modest,’ she said. ‘So, I’m curious. Is that huge golden dragon on the heights the one everyone’s been talking about?’

‘Ramoth? Yes. We’re still no wiser as to her origins. Apparently her rider - Lessa - is on the mend now, so I’m guessing we’ll find out soon.’

Perhaps that was the reason for the meeting? Although, it seemed unlikely. The pair would probably end up staying at Fort as they didn’t belong to any of the other Weyrs. No, it was probably about tithes, or some such, as Morna had suggested. ‘All I can say is I’m glad Gemalth isn’t that size. It would be a real struggle to climb up to those neck ridges.’

J’rud laughed. ‘Yes, I’m always glad to get back on Zurinth if I’ve hitched a ride on Herebeth. So, how’s Benden?’

‘Cold. Damp. That’s why we went to the beach, to get some sun. I actually dropped by to ask if you’d like to meet me at the cove in Southern Boll some time in the next sevenday.’ She turned to J’rud. ‘You too, of course. And any other of our old friends who’d like to come along.’

‘Funnily enough, I was thinking the same, just the other day,’ D’gar said. ‘I’ve not really been out of the Weyr except on patrols lately.’

‘A day on the beach would do you good,’ J’rud said to him. ‘And you know how much Herebeth likes to swim.’

Zalna was glad to see them getting on. For all she’d liked S’brin, she’d always thought D’gar and J’rud were better matched in temperament. ‘I’ll let you know which day is best for us.’ Gemalth interrupted just then. Bidralth’s rider asks to see you. The meeting must have ended at last. ‘I’m sorry but I have to go now. We’ll meet again soon.’

‘You take care, Zalna.’ D’gar smiled.

‘Yes, see you on the beach,’ J’rud added.

‘Good bye for now.’ On her way out, she called Gemalth down from the heights.

We are to return to Benden with Bidralth, Gemalth said. We should not be here.

Really. Says who? N’rax was usually a reasonable man. She’d done nothing wrong by visiting Fort. Mardra must have complained, she reasoned. Typical of the woman and her petty attitude.

The annoyance persisted as she climbed back on Gemalth. With a few powerful wingbeats, she joined the bronze above the Bowl. Bidralth was climbing steadily and N’rax signalled for her to fly alongside. She visualised the dark, rugged peaks of the Benden range, the Weyr Bowl as seen from on high and came out of between in perfect formation with the Weyrleader, into a heavy, cold rain. They descended as fast as they could, but she was soaked by the time they landed just outside the Senior Queen’s weyr

‘Better come to our quarters,’ he called, unfastening his dragon’s riding straps with the ease borne of Turns. Zalna followed suit, carrying them with her across the muddy ground.

Morna waited just inside with drying sheets. ‘Look at the state of you both.’

Zalna dried her hair quickly, aware she was dripping onto the soft rug beneath her boots.

‘Sorry to call you away so abruptly,’ N’rax said, wiping the rain from his face. ‘But it was a necessity.’

‘Ah, so what was your meeting about?’ Morna asked.

N’rax looked serious. ‘Neither of you must speak of this. I will be making an announcement to the whole Weyr, but I know you’ll keep it to yourselves until then. The reason for the emergency meeting was that there have been…’ he paused for a few moments, as if gathering his thoughts. ‘There are reports of a strange illness in some Holds. A few Weyrs too. For that reason, no one will be allowed to leave Benden for at least the next sevenday, to make sure we stay safe.’

‘A plague?’ Morna said, looking worried.

Disease was always bad news. Zalna, like everyone on Pern and particularly the Weyrs, was familiar with the ballad of Moreta’s Ride. She’d been reminded of it again, seeing the tapestry on the wall of D’gar’s weyr earlier.

‘I’m afraid so. The Masterhealer doesn’t have sufficient information yet, but it was agreed this afternoon at Fort that our best defence was to keep ourselves isolated. I’ll be able to tell you more after… our next meeting.’

Zalna sensed he was holding something back, but she wasn’t sure what. Still, she trusted his judgement and certainly wouldn’t dream of going against the Masterhealer’s injunction. ‘Should I… should we go into isolation within the Weyr?’ What if she had brought something back with her from Fort? Or N’rax had, for that matter?

‘I think we’ll be all right. There’s been no sign of it at Fort Weyr.’

‘Which Holds and Weyrs have been affected?’ Morna asked.

N’rax shook his head. ‘Just a few places,’ he said vaguely. ‘And, one or two elderly riders at, er, High Reaches. As I said, it’s purely a precaution right now.’

Morna persisted. ‘So, what are the symptoms?’

‘The Masterhealer didn’t have too many details. Fever, sneezing, coughing. As I said, as soon as he knows more, so will we.’

‘It must be serious, to call a meeting so urgently. Have people died?’

N’rax ran his fingers through his thinning hair in an agitated manner. ‘Please, no more questions. I’m telling you all that I’m allowed to, at present.’

‘The weyrfolk will ask questions,’ Morna said. ‘They’ll want to know which Holds have this sickness, in case they have relatives there.’

‘I know. And I’ll answer as best I can. But no one must leave the Weyr, until we get the all clear. That’s the most important thing. And, if necessary, the queens must enforce that.’

It sounded very serious. Zalna wished she’d not gone out today. Still, she’d been the only soul on that beach and she’d not spent long at Fort. The only people she’d been close to were D’gar and J’rud. N’rax, on the other hand, had spent a couple of hours in the company of Weyrleaders from all across Pern. If one of them had been in contact with someone who had this disease… ‘Are you sure that both of us shouldn’t self-isolate, just in case?’

N’rax shook his head. ‘Certain. Please don’t worry yourself unduly about it. Now, shall we all have some klah to warm us up?’

Copyright © 2021 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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Recognized characters/events/plots from Dragonriders of Pern belong to Ann McCaffrey

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A new story?  I thought you would be done.  I like this from Benden’s perspective. There was very little description of how they handled all of this since the focus in the book was on Fort and Lessa.

A plague?  I just don’t remember that scenario as an excuse in the book.  Or is this just a method to keep the Benden folk in the Weyr and isolated so they won’t get an inkling of what is really going on.  I know the Benden leadership knew the truth, but kept it a secret, not even putting it in the records. I guess it’s one explanation for the Lower caves, the Holders and the common folk for why the 5 Weyrs were so suddenly and inexplicably abandoned overnight.  The only hints were the tapestry and the new Learning Song that was now mandatory for everyone across Pern.  That way, 400 Turns in the future, Lessa would be able to puzzle it all out and set all of this in motion.  And I remember her telling the Guild Masters that she couldn’t tell them anything because it had to come from them!  That drove them buggy!

Edited by Clancy59
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5 hours ago, drsawzall said:

A great start, looking forward to more!!!

Thank you. This is a different sort of story than the others and it's my first one written from the point of view of someone who is close to the top of the hierarchy.

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3 hours ago, Kitt said:

N'rax is not a very good liar.

I agree. He might be good at organising the Weyr to fight Thread, but he's never had to deal with something like this before. All he's been told is he must keep what's happening secret or he might imperil the future of Pern. 

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Comments such as yours mean a lot to me. I write because I enjoy it, but having feedback is a bonus. I am so glad my words have helped you through some bad times.

Because fan fiction is based around someone else's copyrighted work, an author can’t charge for it. It's written purely to fill in the gaps the original author left blank.

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I'm already hooked Mawgrim!
It's great to see this from the perspective of Benden, but having Zalna tell it is a wonderful surprise.

Refresh me a bit please: the visual Lessa used was from a tapestry of Ruatha Hold...was that the same one as Moreta in D'gar and J'rud's weyr?  I thought that ride was a lot earlier in the timeline so Ruatha must have changed by D'gar's time....

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No, a different one. Lessa remembered the tapestry had been displayed at her family hold before Fax invaded. It was found again and brought to Benden Weyr. It portrayed the last battle against Thread at the end of the Eighth Pass over Ruatha. Lessa figured out that changes had been made to the Hold, as it didn't look the same in modern times and used the picture as a reference to go back in time.

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OMG, I just realized realized that with Zalna at Benden; she would not go have gone forward...   I am truly going to hate that she will be left behind.  Can't wait to see what you do with this story.

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