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

Canon typical violence

Gone Away, Gone Ahead - 10. Chapter 10

While recovering in the infirmary, D'gar finds out more about Benden Weyr and modern times.

After R’feem and H’rek had left him, D’gar managed to sleep for a while. When he woke again, his stomach was telling him it must be near lunchtime. The numbweed was still doing its work, so he didn’t feel too bad at all. In fact, if they’d only left him some clothes, he’d have been up and about.

He sat up and looked around the infirmary cavern. There were two other occupied beds near to his. The man to his right was sleeping, but over on the opposite side, another rider, of a similar age to R’feem, was sitting up and talking with a slightly built blond woman. His head was swathed in bandages which extended to cover his left eye. Partially healed Thread scores stood out in livid relief down his neck and left shoulder.

‘Excuse me,’ D’gar called across. ‘Do they bring food over here or do you have to ask someone?’ He’d been thinking of getting Herebeth to bespeak Rioth, although he remembered H’rek had said something about flying patrols this morning.

The woman stood up and came over. ‘I’m just about to fetch some lunch for Gr'lon. Would you like me to get you something as well?

‘If it’s no bother.’

‘Not at all.’ She was softly spoken and had a warm smile for him. ‘I’m Chenna.’


‘What do you like to eat, D’gar?’

‘Anything, really. I missed breakfast this morning so I’m starving now.’

‘I’ll see what I can find.’ She turned back to Gr'lon. ‘Back soon, darling.’

He watched her leave, then turned to D’gar. ‘So what happened to you, then?’

‘I, er… fell in the lake.’ It was probably best not to say too much, although Weyr gossip being what it was, the story was bound to get out sooner rather than later.

‘You’re not from here, are you?’

‘No. Fort Weyr.’

He sighed. ‘Time was, a man knew every rider and dragon on Pern. So, you came forward with Lessa?’

‘That’s right.’

‘Wish I’d seen it myself. Mind you, I wasn’t in very good shape when you all arrived. Got this lot at Nerat, first scorching Threadfall we fought.’

‘Bad luck.’ He’d heard there’d been quite a few casualties that day. It was hardly surprising, with every man and dragon lacking practical experience of Threadfighting.

‘Still, at least Kolth’s all right.’

Typical too, for a rider to be more concerned about his dragon. ‘That’s good. You’ll be back up in the air again as soon as those scores have healed enough for you to be able to go between.

‘Really?’ He sounded hopeful. ‘The healers said it could be months.’

‘Oh, I doubt it’ll be that long. They’ll need you back in action to fill the gaps.’ At the end of the Eighth Pass, there had always been a rush to get men back to the Wings. The theory had been that the longer you stayed grounded, the more likely you were to lose your nerve. And as dragons usually mended quicker than their riders, if the dragon healers were happy, the pair would be pronounced fit for duty again.

‘It’s the eye I’m worried about,’ Gr'lon’s hand went to the bandages. ‘There’s a chance I might not be able to see too well out of it.’

That wouldn’t be good. Not impossible to overcome though. ’We had a couple of one-eyed riders at Fort. It’s not as bad as losing, say, an arm.’

Gr'lon winced, then gestured over to the sleeping man. ‘Like that poor sod. Well, he’s not lost it, but there’s not much left of it. He’s dosed up with fellis, so he sleeps most of the time. In fact, I’m glad you turned up in here. It’s boring, with no one else to talk to.’

‘I’m hoping to get out of here later, myself. I’d rather recover in my own weyr.’

He nodded in agreement and they carried on chatting long enough for D’gar to find out that Gr'lon was a Wingsecond in R’gul’s Wing.

‘He used to be Weyrleader, you know.’

He hadn’t. But then he remembered that just after the mating flight R’feem had said something about him having punched the former Weyrleader. ‘Is he a tall, broad-shouldered man? Bushy eyebrows and dark hair?’

‘That’s him. You’ve met?’

‘Um, briefly.’ He hoped R’gul wouldn’t be coming to visit Gr'lon before he got out of the infirmary. ‘Does he visit you often?’

Gr’lon shook his head. ‘No, no. He’s far too busy.’

That came as something of a relief, even if it seemed rather inconsiderate. R’feem had always visited injured riders regularly to keep their spirits up.

Just then Chenna returned, carrying a laden tray, which put a stop to any awkward questions. ‘I’ve brought a selection. There’s wherry stew, tubers, greens, bread, cheese and a selection of fruit. I’ll put it over here, then you can help yourself. Sorry if the stew’s slopped over a bit. There’s a brown dragon lying right outside the entrance and I nearly tripped over his tail.’

Herebeth, are you still outside?

Of course. I will stay here until you are better.

Well, could you shift over a bit. People are having trouble getting past you, you great lump.

‘It’s my dragon,’ he admitted. ‘I just asked him to move. He’s feeling protective right now.’

Chenna looked at him. ‘So you must be the rider someone tried to drown? And your dragon pulled you out?’

It had got around already. He wasn’t entirely surprised. ‘That’s me. Although I don’t think he actually intended to drown me, just thought he’d teach me a lesson.’

‘Sounds as if there’s a story there,’ Gr'lon said, helping himself to stew and bread. ‘Come and get some food, lad.’

‘I’d love to, but I, er, don’t have any clothes.’ If Chenna wasn’t present, it wouldn’t be a problem.

‘Oh, it’s all right,’ she said picking up on his concerns. ‘I was Holdbred, but I’m used to Weyr ways now, so don’t worry yourself about it.’

‘Chenna was Searched,’ Gr'lon said. ‘Same time as Lessa Impressed Ramoth.’

‘And obviously, I didn’t Impress,’ she said. ‘But by then I’d met him, so I decided I’d rather stay than go home and be married off to someone I didn’t even like.’

He got out of bed, still feeling slightly self-conscious, although she had the grace to busy herself with Gr'lon’s pillows while he fetched his food.

He’d got back to bed and had a few mouthfuls when Gr'lon spoke. ‘So, are you going to tell us?’

Well, if it was going to get around (with plenty of exaggeration, no doubt) someone might as well hear the truth. So, as he ate, he told them the basics of what had happened. ‘And that’s why Herebeth has decided to stay out there to make sure F’drun doesn’t get near me again. You know how dragons can be.’

‘This F’drun’s not going to be pleased about being demoted, is he?’

‘No, Especially as I’ve been given his old job. But I’ll just have to deal with that when it comes to it.’

‘I’m surprised he’s been allowed to stay here at all. If R’gul was still in charge, he’d have packed him off straight back to - where was it?’

‘High Reaches. Thing is, it’s not that simple. They all got sent here because the Weyrleader doesn’t like them, so I doubt he’d have one of them back, whatever he’d done. Back in the old days, he might have got transferred on to another Weyr, but everyone’s in such a mess at the moment, it’s the last thing on their mind. Believe me, when a Weyr’s abandoned for that long, it’s not a pretty sight.’ That got a laugh from them. ‘You said before that R’gul used to be Weyrleader here. How long ago was that?’

‘Until late last Turn, when Ramoth rose for the first time. To be honest, I was surprised. Thought Lessa would have shown some gratitude towards the man who taught her all she knows.’

Chenna sighed. ‘Yes, but we all know how reluctant R’gul was to believe that Thread was going to return. Then there was all that bother when some of the Lord Holders rose up against us. They turned up outside the Weyr making demands, you know.’

D’gar was shocked. ‘Holders marched on the Weyr?’

‘Oh, yes,’ Gr’lon confirmed. ‘Although not entirely without reason. Some of the less responsible Wingleaders had been raiding their Holds.’

‘Only because the tithes were so stingy,’ Chenna countered.

D’gar hoped they weren’t going to start arguing in front of him, although he was intrigued enough by what they were saying that he wanted them to continue. ‘So, what happened? What did R’gul do?’ he asked.

‘Well, it was the day after Ramoth rose, so he wasn’t in a position to do anything. The new Weyrleader sent riders out to kidnap the Holders’ ladies and hold them hostage.’

D’gar laughed. ‘Good for him. That’s the sort of treatment they deserved. T’ron - that’s our Weyrleader - would have done the same under the circumstances. He drives a hard bargain with the Holders when it comes to tithing. There was this one time when they sent us a load of diseased ovines, so he just sent a Wing to pick the best out of the Lord’s prize flock. Didn’t happen again, I can tell you.’ He laughed at the memory, then stopped when he realised Chenna and Gr'lon were looking at him askance. ‘Well, it’s only what they owe us, isn’t it? “Honour those the dragons heed,” and all that. Your new Weyrleader might try doing the same. I noticed some pretty scrawny stock in the feeding grounds the other day.’

‘What we’re getting now is good,’ Gr'lon said, a little defensively.

‘Yes,’ Chenna added. ‘I remember when I arrived at the Weyr I was appalled at the poor quality of the food we were served.’

‘Before Thread fell, we were rationed most of the time. Even the dragons weren’t allowed to eat as much as they wanted. We had to take them out Weyr to hunt wild wherries.’ Gr’lon shook his head. ‘Those were bad times. R’gul wasn’t the only one to believe Thread was gone for good. A lot of the Holders saw the Weyr as parasites.’

D’gar tried to get his head around this. It was so different to his own time it was hard to imagine. And yet, even after just a few months of clear skies at the end of the last Pass, the gratitude owed to dragons and their riders had begun to fade. After four hundred Turns - especially when the expected previous Threadfall had failed to materialise - was it any wonder there’d be that kind of attitude? ‘Well, I’m glad I wasn’t around to see it. And they’ll have to change their ideas now, won’t they?’

‘Most will. Most already have. But there are still a few who resent having to rely on us.’

Like those fisherfolk he and M’rell had encountered. Maybe that hadn’t been an anomaly, after all.

‘And if your Weyrleader tries tactics like that on modern Holders it could turn nasty,’ Gr’lon added.

D’gar smiled at that. ‘I’d like to see ‘em get nasty with dragons around. Bit of flame always does the trick.’ Noticing their pained expressions, he hastily added. ‘Not the people, of course. But burn a few carts or the like and they’ll come around.’

‘Hey, D’gar! Still with us, then?’ M’rell shouted out from the doorway, loudly enough that the sleeping rider groaned and briefly opened his eyes.

Sshh,’ D’gar warned, a finger to his lips. ‘There’s a badly scored man here trying to sleep.’

Three of them came in; M’rell, J’rud and G’reden. In the quiet stillness of the infirmary, they seemed much too loud and full of life.

‘They’ve just been telling me what happened to you,’ G’reden said. ‘Sounds like I’ve missed all the fun.’

‘It wasn’t much fun from my point of view.’

‘Yeah, but F’drun getting his comeuppance was. Now he’s only a wingrider, we can take the piss out of him as much as we want. Well done, mate.’ M’rell clapped him on the back before remembering that was where he was injured. ‘Sorry.’

‘It’s all right. Numbweed’s still working. So, how’s Jekkoth?’ he asked G’reden.

‘Cleared for duty. It was only a little score, after all. I’ll be flying the next Fall. How about you?’

D’gar shook his head. ‘Not until these cuts heal up, they said. Still, R’feem’s given me loads of admin to do so I won’t get bored.’

‘Oh yes. We came here to congratulate you,’ J’rud put in. ‘Firstly, for getting rid of F’drun -‘

‘And secondly, on your promotion.’ M’rell smiled broadly. He stood to attention. “Wingsecond. Sir!’

‘You won’t thank me when I have you lot running around the Bowl with bags of firestone.’

M’rell’s face fell. ‘You wouldn’t?’

It was always fun to wind up M’rell. ‘Fitness is very important. I’ve got a few ideas to try out.’

‘As long as they don’t involve swimming in the lake.’ J’rud said. ‘Why did you even do that?’

‘Because I’m mad?’ He sighed. ‘With hindsight, it wasn’t very sensible.’

‘It was less stupid than what F’drun did,’ M’rell added.

‘Got his dragon to do,’ J’rud corrected. ’V’vil said he’s done it before though. Apparently, it was a favourite punishment of his at High Reaches, making people swim in the lake. He used to get Ryth to pull them out once he thought they’d been in there long enough.’

D’gar started to feel cold again at the thought of how low the water temperature must be at High Reaches. ‘I’m glad Ryth didn’t pull me out. Herebeth was probably a bit more careful about it.’ He leaned a bit closer and lowered his voice so Gr’lon and Chenna didn’t overhear. ‘What’s the general feeling about all of this?’

J’rud sat on the edge of his bed. ‘R’feem’s acting very serious. F’drun stormed out of the council room back to his weyr with a face like thunder. Reckon he’d had a good telling off. We’ve been getting some very odd looks from the Benden lot.’

‘They probably think this is normal for us,’ M’rell added.

‘Well, you’d best make sure they know it’s not. Talk to H’rek’s clutchmates when you get a chance, reassure them we’re not all like F’drun. We don’t want an incident like this to get blown up out of proportion.’

‘You know you’re starting to sound like R’feem already,’ M’rell said. ‘Hope you aren’t going to get all serious and responsible on us.’

‘I’ll try not to.’

They stayed for a little while longer, before having to leave for the afternoon drills. The infirmary felt very quiet once they’d left. Chenna went off back to her duties. D’gar picked up the satchel from the floor, to have a look at what he’d been left to do. Although it wasn’t that heavy, the action of lifting it sent a brief twinge through his left shoulder.

‘You’ve not been a Wingsecond before?’ Gr’lon asked.

‘Not officially, no. One of ours died and the other ended up grounded not long before the end of the Pass. M’rell and I filled in, as best we could.’ If they’d not come forward, would he have ended up as Wingsecond? Probably not for a good few Turns. Promotion came through seniority once people stopped dying on a regular basis.

‘It’s not always an easy job,’ he said. ‘You’ll find you have to keep a bit more distance from your wingmates, so they respect you. You can’t just be one of the lads anymore.’

D’gar supposed that was one of the reasons why it was thought better to have an older man in the position. ‘So, what do you think makes someone a good leader?’ It would be useful to get a modern perspective on the matter.

Gr’lon considered for a moment. ‘Well, I don’t think you’d go far wrong by emulating my own Wingleader. He believes in upholding tradition - knows all his Teaching Ballads by heart. We always drill hard and do well at the Games.’

D’gar had never heard R’feem recite any Teaching Ballads, so he had no idea how well (or not) he knew them. ‘Our Wingleader cares about us. He was in here earlier today as soon as he found out what had happened to me.’ He thought over all the times R’feem had kept them going, even after some of the heaviest losses. ‘The day my weyrmate died, he came to see me. Well, not just me. We lost six pairs that Fall. There were a lot of folk grieving that night.’ He remembered sitting in his darkening weyr, clothes still covered with dried blood and feeling numb with misery. ‘He got me through the worst of it and looked out for me the next few Falls. If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably not be here now. That’s the example I’d like to follow.’

Gr’lon was quiet for a while. ‘Well,’ he said eventually. ‘I suppose it’s a bit different during a Pass. Six pairs lost, you said, in one Fall? Is that normal?’

‘That was a bad one. But you’d expect to have one or two fatalities every Fall. Plus, all the injuries, of course. That’s why queens have such large clutches during a Pass. And for several Turns before, too.’

He sighed. ‘One of the reasons we’re so short here is that Nemorth - that’s the previous queen -didn’t rise very often. People saw that as further proof Thread wouldn’t return again.’

‘You had just the one queen?’ He’d wondered why there were only two now, but hadn’t liked to ask in case something dreadful had happened that no one wanted to talk about.

‘Oh, yes. It’s been that way for Turns. I’d heard that all your Weyrs have several queens each, but I wasn’t sure if it was true.’

‘It’s true, all right.’ The idea of only having one queen was worrying. What if something happened to her? Or the Weyrwoman, for that matter. As H’rek had pointed out, Thread wasn’t the only way people could die. ‘Sometimes the juniors get transferred. It gives the weyrwoman more experience of managing different Weyrs.’ It also helped prevent inbreeding, but he didn’t want to mention that.

‘I suppose so. We’ve been the only Weyr for so long…’ he trailed off. ‘Well, I suppose we’ll have to get used to your ways. It must seem strange for you, as well.’

D’gar shrugged, then wished he hadn’t. Evidently, the numbweed’s effect was wearing off. ‘I’m getting used to it now, although there’s still a lot to learn.’ He didn’t feel totally at home, here in Benden, but the prospect of returning to Fort wasn’t as appealing as it had been either. He supposed that when they eventually had to go back, H’rek could apply for a transfer. Although, would he feel as dislocated there as D’gar did here? At least he had the company of all his wingmates. Being alone in a strange Weyr wouldn’t be easy. ‘Every Weyr is run a bit differently,’ he explained. ‘Sometimes it’s down to tradition, sometimes the way a particular Weyrleader likes things done.’ T’ron had been Weyrleader at Fort since he was a child, but he’d heard some of the older riders complain that there had been changes for the worse under his leadership. Never having known any different, he was in no position to comment.

‘Things have changed a lot here recently, too,’ Gr’lon’s expression seemed to indicate he wasn’t too happy about that.

‘They would, now that the Pass has begun.’ Gr’lon’s whole life had been lived at the end of a very long Interval, where there had been no excitement to look forward to but the Spring Games. D’gar wondered if he would have become bored with the same old routine, had they not come forward. At least he had been young enough to adapt. Some of the older riders wouldn’t have coped so well.

‘It’s not just that. F’lar’s views on how a Weyrleader should behave are very different from R’gul’s.’

From what he’d heard so far, F’lar was much better at the job, although he didn’t say that. Gr’lon would have the same sort of loyalty toward his Wingleader as D’gar felt for R’feem. ‘I think that’s a common enough feeling after a leadership change. I’m guessing R’gul had been Weyrleader for a while?’

‘Thirteen Turns. We had stability back then.’ He sighed. ‘Ah well, all that’s gone. It’s a different time, now Thread’s falling. And now all the Weyrs are full again.’

A healer came toward them. ‘How are you feeling?’ he asked D’gar.

‘Er, fine.’ It was probably best not to mention the nagging discomfort in his back and shoulders. ‘Do I really need to stay here? I’d be as well to rest in my weyr.’

‘If you want to do that, I can’t stop you. But you’ve probably not thought about how you’re going to get there. Climbing on and off your dragon won’t help these wounds to close up any quicker.’ The healer examined his back. ‘You must be starting to feel it by now.’

‘It’s fine,’ he insisted. The healer pressed his shoulder blade and the pain took him by surprise. ‘Ow.’

‘Hmm,’ he said. ‘Apart from the cuts, you’re also badly bruised. And by tomorrow morning you’ll find it quite difficult to move. So your best bet - boring though it might be - is to stay here and keep still. I can get some more numbweed if you want. Would you like that?’

‘Please.’ If he wasn’t going to get out, there was no point in suffering needlessly.

‘Anyway, I’m sure your weyrmate will be back to see you later on.’

‘He’s…’ he had been going to say ‘not my weyrmate’ and in strictly technical terms, that was true. They didn’t share the same weyr. But H’rek had demonstrated how much he cared by his actions today and really, D’gar wouldn’t mind if he did move in. ‘Yes, I expect he will.’



Copyright © 2020 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
Recognized characters/events/plots from Dragonriders of Pern belong to Ann McCaffrey

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Thank you for posting this chapter so soon after the last one. I look forward to reading more of your story.

Edited by Lutheros
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Really enjoyed this chapter; was able to get a better feel of what the differences are between those from the current time and those that came forward.  Well written and the chapter flowed really well.

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I liked this chapter.  Anne basically wrote from the perspective of the Weyr Leadership.  It is interesting seeing how the people in the lower levels dealt with the trip Forward.  Keep up the good work!

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F'drun with a 'face of thunder'. Oh dear. Me thinks the cauldron stirring has begun...

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14 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Anne basically wrote from the perspective of the Weyr Leadership.  It is interesting seeing how the people in the lower levels dealt with the trip Forward.  Keep up the good work!

That was part of the idea that inspired me to write this - what happened between the end of Dragonflight and the beginning of Dragonquest to sour the relationship between Benden and the other five Weyrs? As they say, 'the past is another country; they do things differently there'. Must have been really hard for all those folk to adapt to the new age and some of them just can’t deal with it.

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5 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

That was part of the idea that inspired me to write this - what happened between the end of Dragonflight and the beginning of Dragonquest to sour the relationship between Benden and the other five Weyrs? As they say, 'the past is another country; they do things differently there'. Must have been really hard for all those folk to adapt to the new age and some of them just can’t deal with it.

Yes.  I remember there were a lot of misunderstandings between the current people (the Crafters, Healers, etc.) and the Riders who came forward.  The Riders were accustomed to being treated almost like royalty and being given anything they wanted, and the present-time people who had 400 years of separation from Dragonkind under their belts.  I remember one instance that created a huge furor when an Old Timer tried to claim a beautiful, custom dagger that had been made for a Lord Holder’s marriage and became incensed when he was refused.  It took intervention by F’Lar and several other moderate Weyrleaders to prevent some of the hotter heads from retaliating.

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