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

Canon typical violence

Gone Away, Gone Ahead - 29. Chapter 29

The unexpected Threadfall in Southern has its consequences

‘It was the dragons who warned us. I mean, there were a couple of folk on duty watching the north-eastern approaches, but the dragons got restless before anyone even saw anything.’ H’rek still sat on the firestone sacks next to D’gar. B’lin and F’nor had just joined them. D’gar had no doubt that F’nor would report everything back to the Weyrleader.

Tell Rioth to tell H’rek not to drop anyone in it. We aren’t alone now.

Will do. Herebeth blew water from his nostrils as if in acknowledgement. D’gar saw H’rek’s head jerk slightly as he got the message.

‘Anyway,’ H’rek continued, ‘The visibility was as good as it is now, so you could see the grey haze of incoming Thread across the sea. Trouble was, no-one really knew what we were supposed to be doing.’ He paused. D’gar realised that he must be thinking carefully about how he was going to carry on. ‘I mean, usually when you know there’s going to be a Fall, all the Wingleaders meet to discuss tactics and formations. There’s time to make sure people on the ground are safe and so forth. We only had around ten minutes to prepare.’

‘Is that when you sent us the message?’ D’gar asked, prompting him.

He nodded. ’Everyone was scattered. We’d had breakfast and started work, so some folk had already gone over to the western area. Quite a few dragons were over there too. I knew some of them, so I got Rioth to send them a warning as well. I think a few others must have done the same, because they all started coming back fairly quickly.’

F’nor nodded encouragingly. ‘Then what happened.’

‘We got our riding gear on and fighting straps. Then we started feeding firestone to the dragons.’

‘I heard something about you not having enough firestone.’ F’nor queried.

‘We’d been concentrating on getting the accommodation ready and clearing the place, so although there was firestone available, not much had been bagged up.'

That didn’t look too good on T’bor, D’gar thought. As Weyrleader, his responsibility was to make sure the Weyr was ready to fight Thread. The fact that he’d not known when it might fall surely should have made it even more important to be prepared.

‘So, did T’bor tell you which Wings you’d be flying with?’

H’rek looked uneasy. ‘I, er… I’m not sure. No one had said anything to me, but I can’t answer for anyone else on that.’ He glanced toward D’gar as if asking for some help.

D’gar felt for him, but there wasn’t really anything he could do. If F’nor asked H’rek a direct question, he was obliged to answer truthfully. Looking past H’rek’s shoulder, he saw M’rell walking towards them, wiping char from his face.

‘While we were getting ready, the support staff dropped what they’d been doing and started making for the Hatching Ground, but it’s a fair distance and you can’t run that fast on soft sand.’

‘Maybe someone should have taken them on dragon back?’ F’nor suggested.

‘Maybe we should.’ H’rek shrugged. ‘Only there wasn’t a lot of time and T’bor said that our priority was to get airborne. I could see his point,’ he added, obviously in defence of T’bor’s decision. ‘As long as we were up there, we could destroy Thread before it got to ground.’

M’rell reached them. ‘Glad you got here as fast as you did,’ he said to D'gar, throwing his jacket across the sacks. ‘It was a shambles before you arrived.’

D’gar couldn’t deny that; he’d seen it for himself and so, for that matter, had F’nor. ‘I don’t know,’ he commented. ‘Some of you seemed pretty well organised.’ That was true as well.

M’rell grimaced. ‘I hate to admit it, but you can thank F’drun for that. He got all of us injured riders and dragons formed into a Wing and took charge. The rest… well you probably saw what a mess they were.’

H’rek rounded on him. ‘Quite a lot of them had never flown Fall before. At least I’d had experience with the Queens’ Wing, but some hadn’t even had that.’

‘Easy, lad,’ M’rell said. ‘I wasn’t getting at you, just telling it how it looked to me.’

‘Yes,’ F’nor said. ‘I have eyes too. Carry on, er…?’

‘M’rell, Toth’s rider. From R’feem’s Wing, same as D’gar here.’

D’gar was certain now that F’nor was carrying out an official investigation. He gave up trying to moderate comments. Everyone would be telling the same story anyway and as F’nor had mentioned, he’d seen what it was like for himself.

M’rell sat down heavily on the sacks and continued. ’T’bor’s Wing - well, the half of it that’s here - took the top level and we started clearing what they couldn’t get to. But there were dragons all over the place so you had to be careful when you were flaming. I nearly took some blue’s head off at one point. Gave me and Toth a real turn.’

H’rek looked down at the sand, obviously embarrassed. ‘We didn’t know what we were meant to be doing. I suggested we should try and get into some kind of formation, but who’s going to listen to a green?’

F’nor nodded. ‘You all did what you could,’ he said, directing his comments towards H’rek. ‘No-one’s trying to blame you youngsters for anything. Main thing is to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.’

‘This Fall must fit into the pattern of what we get up north,’ D’gar suggested. ‘Maybe we could figure out when the next one’s due from the maps you already have?’

‘I’m sure the Weyrleader will look into that.’ He stood, tucking his gloves into his belt. ‘I’d best be off. See you later back at the Weyr.’

D’gar noticed he didn’t call Canth out of the sea, but went over towards the Weyrhall, probably to find out T’bor’s side of the story before leaving.

M’rell stretched. ‘Thought we were here for rest and recuperation,’ he sighed. ‘Still, at least I know Toth’s eye’s all right now.’

‘That’s one good thing.’ D’gar noticed that H’rek still seemed very downcast. ‘It’s all right. You heard what F’nor said. You’re off the hook for this.’

B’lin nodded. ‘Could have been a lot worse.’

‘Yeah. At least no-one died,’ M’rell added.

H’rek looked up. ‘And that’s meant to make me feel better, is it? I felt useless up there. It was chaos.’

‘It always is,’ D’gar assured him. ‘I remember my first Fall as a wingrider. It all seemed to happen so fast and I was convinced everyone else except me knew what they were doing.’

‘You don’t learn it all over night,’ B’lin added. ‘That’s why we try to pair up new riders and dragons with someone experienced for their first couple of Falls. You were thrown in at the deep end.’

D’gar put an arm around him. ‘You did the right thing, calling for help.’

‘I can’t believe no-one else had thought to do that. Tell the Weyr, that is.’

‘They probably did. Only everyone at Benden was otherwise occupied. Ramoth rose this morning.’

‘Ah. I see. So that’s why F’nor’s here instead of the Weyrleader?’

‘Exactly. Mnementh flew Ramoth, by the way.’

‘Well, at least something’s gone right this morning.’ He sounded calmer.

‘I’m off for a swim,’ B’lin said. ‘How about you?’ he asked M’rell.

‘They’ll probably want me to get back to work now all the excitement’s over.’

‘I doubt anyone’s too concerned with that right now. Anyway, you deserve a break.’

It was obvious to D’gar that B’lin was trying to give him some space to be alone with H’rek. He flashed him a short smile as a thank you, just as M’rell seemed to catch on.

‘Yeah, I do. And Toth, too. Look after my stuff, D’gar.’

‘We’re not going anywhere for a while.’ M’rell and B’lin stripped off their clothes, then went running down to the shore, pushing each other like a pair of weyrbrats. He sat for a while, content just to enjoy the unexpected time together, relieved that he’d had the chance to explain at last.

H’rek looked around, at the beach, the trees waving softly in the breeze. ‘Don’t think I’m ever going to feel the same about this place again. When we lived here before, it was safe. Now…’ He shook his head.

‘You’ve had a scare.’ D’gar could understand why H’rek felt that way. Living in the open, or under wooden shelters was no protection at all.

‘I don’t ever want to feel like that again. Helpless. Scared.’

‘Rioth took care of you. Dragons trust their instincts. If you trust your dragon, everything usually works out fine.’

‘I know. But I wish I could go back to Benden.’

D’gar wished he could as well. ‘Sometimes, we don’t get a choice in where we’re sent. But things often turn out better than we’d imagined. Stick with it. The month will soon pass.’ He pulled H’rek closer again.

H’rek whispered in his ear. ‘You said Ramoth rose. Did I drag you away in the middle of a gold flight?’

‘Yes, but it’s not so much fun when you’re on your own. I was with R’feem when Herebeth told me…’

‘R’feem!’ H’rek sounded shocked.

‘Planning our Threadfall tactics.’ He had to smile at H’rek’s misconceptions.

‘Ah. Sorry. I’m being Holdbred again.’

‘I wasn’t going to mention that.’ He sighed. ‘I wish I could stay here with you all day, but we’ve got Fall later.’ Absently, he rubbed his shoulder. Hefting all that firestone hadn’t done it any good.

H’rek obviously noticed. ’Have you hurt yourself?’

‘A few days ago. I had a mid-air collision with a dragon Then we had to find burrows in a sharding forest.’ He remembered their argument beforehand. ‘You’ll be pleased to hear I didn’t burn anything except Thread.’

‘I didn’t really think you would. The more I think about that day, the more I realise how stupid it all was.’

‘I know. I’ve been thinking the same.’

‘I shouldn’t really have mentioned it to the others, but L’cal noticed I was a bit quiet during our break and asked. It was his idea for me to stay away that night. Said it would show you you couldn’t push me around.’

‘Have I?’ D’gar asked. ‘Pushed you around, that is?’ He didn’t think he had.

‘No. But I don’t think he likes you much.’

‘What have I ever done to him?’

H’rek counted off points on his fingers. ‘You’re a Wingsecond. You’ve got a nice weyr. You’ve got yourself noticed by the people who count, like F’nor. You’ve got me.’

‘I didn’t know he fancied you.’

‘I don’t think he does. As far as I’m aware he prefers girls.’

That - sort of - put D’gar’s mind at rest. Although N’bras had said that L’cal flirted with anyone, hadn’t he? ‘So, did anything happen? With you and him?’

‘No!’ H’rek looked pained. ‘I’m surprised you even asked that.’

‘Well, you assumed I jumped into bed with N’bras at the first chance.’

He was quiet for a few moments. ‘That’s true. I’m sorry. But no, nothing happened. I slept in the chair that night in his weyr. He snores really loudly.’

‘So why did he try and turn you against me?’

‘I think…’ H’rek paused. ‘It’s complicated, but basically he doesn’t think we - meaning the Benden and Southern riders - should be mixing with you.’

‘Meaning anyone from the other five Weyrs?’

H’rek nodded. ‘He doesn’t think we’ll ever find common ground. You know his father’s a Holder?’

‘I’d heard, yes.’

‘Well, he’s had some trouble with Fort Weyr riders. Not that I want to bring all that up again and obviously, there might be some exaggeration, but…’

‘There’s always a grain of truth in any story.’ D’gar knew that some dragonriders threw their weight around when dealing with Holders. It only took a few to give a Weyr a bad name. You could see how some of the ingrained attitudes they’d brought from the past could rub modern folk up the wrong way.

‘Exactly.’

‘Mind you, it goes both ways. Some of our folk feel the same. They don’t like the way things are in this day and age and they don’t see why they should be the ones to change.’ He remembered the misconceptions Agarra had rolled out regarding Benden Weyr customs. ‘It’ll take Turns, rather than months.’

‘What can we do?’

‘Ignore them and get on with our lives.’

Although he'd liked to have spent longer with H’rek, D’gar knew that he needed to return to Benden with plenty of time to spare. He got Herebeth to round up the rest of their wing riders, having given them long enough to rest and swim. There were a few grumbles but most saw the need for getting back. In any case, having missed breakfast, not many wanted to miss out on lunch as well.

M’rell waved them off, standing next to H’rek on the sand. ‘See you soon.’

‘I’ll try to come back tomorrow.’ Although D’gar knew that H’rek would be working, they could still spend some time together during his breaks, or maybe when work stopped for the evening. If necessary, he and Herebeth could help out with some of the jobs themselves.

By comparison with the humid heat of noon in the south, Benden had a crisp feel to the air, even though the sun was shining and the weather seemed almost springlike for once. He and B’lin joined R’feem in his weyr for lunch and a pre-Fall briefing.

‘Hope you two aren’t too tired.’

‘Not really. We were only in the air for a short while,’ B’lin said, helping himself to klah and some bread and cheese.

D’gar nodded agreement. It was always hard to judge time when you were fighting Thread, but he’d guess it had been less than an hour. His stomach felt fairly settled - amazingly so, considering - so he risked eating a slice of crusty bread and a piece of fruit. ‘How was it back here?’

R’feem took a sip of his own klah. ‘Once they’d all calmed down, fine. A couple of the other Wingleaders wanted to take their own Wings down there, but I persuaded them to wait until we heard if they’d be needed.’

‘We had plenty of dragons, as it turned out.’

‘Anyone hurt?’

‘Not that I saw.’

‘Excellent. Oh, and F’nor mentioned that you’d done a good job as acting Wingleader.’

D’gar felt his face start to blush. ‘It was hardly that. Everyone knew more-or-less what they were doing.’

‘No, he’s right,’ B’lin said. ‘You took control; got things organised. And managed to do it without upsetting those bronze riders as well.’

‘Well done, anyway.’ R’feem picked up his slates. ‘Now, shall we work out what’s happening later this afternoon? I’ve made some notes.’

It was an easy Fall. The weather was kind; good visibility and light winds. No-one in their Wing was injured and there were only a few scores among the other Wings as well. They’d done their stint as ground crew on the previous Fall, so today that duty fell to someone else. D’gar was happy about that. While there weren’t any forested areas, the terrain was hilly and it would be hard work getting around down there. He was also pleased that N’bras had taken his guidance to heart and was flying in much more level fashion this time. There were no more near-misses.

By the time they were done and back at the Weyr, the stress of the day was starting to take its toll. He felt tired and drained; his shoulder aching. After a meal, he went off for an early night. The excitement of a gold flight, then the two Falls, short though they might have been, would make sure everyone had a good night’s sleep tonight.

The following morning, after the usual exercises, he took some breakfast over to the infirmary for J’rud.

‘Sorry I didn’t get here yesterday. It was a bit hectic. How are you feeling?’

J’rud shrugged. ‘Not so bad. It’s odd though. I can feel my foot aching even though it’s not there any more.’

‘Is that normal?’

‘The healers say it’s fairly common when you have a limb amputated. Anyway, what’s all this I hear about you saving the day down in the south?’

‘It was hardly that. I just did my job.’ D’gar filled him in on the events. By then, Sh’ran had also arrived, bringing more food with him. Izaeth had caught a pair of wherries for Zurinth, who would be unable to fly for a couple more sevendays until her wingsail mended sufficiently.

’We’ll both be getting fat with all this sitting around and being fed,’ J’rud joked. It was good to see him looking more cheerful, despite everything. D’gar left him chatting animatedly to Sh’ran, thinking that it looked as if their pairing might last longer than just a mating flight fling.

When will we be seeing Rioth again? Herebeth was as eager as he to visit

Later. He thought it would be better to leave it until the afternoon, when everyone in the south took their main break during the hottest part of the day.

Rioth asks when we will be there. She says they are not busy today.

Dragons may not be busy, but what about their riders?

Herebeth had no answer for that, so D’gar spent the rest of the morning doing some more admin for the Wing, tidying up the weyr and oiling Herebeth’s fighting straps. Last thing he wanted to do was to make a nuisance of himself, especially given the attitudes of some people. You couldn’t explain all that to a dragon, though.

Eventually, he set off. It was another pleasant day over the Benden mountain range, blue skies and a purplish haze making the sharp peaks look somehow softer.

Maybe this place does have spring? Even summer.

It will be much warmer in the south. Herebeth said enthusiastically. I am going to swim again.

There were quite a few dragons doing just that as they emerged from between over the golden beach and the smaller dots of people in the water. Others lounged around under the trees.

D’gar removed Herebeth’s straps and watched him half-run, half-fly down into the water, then made his way along a newly cleared path to the Weyrhall. There were several groups sitting in the shade. He spotted M’rell and went over.

‘How’s it going?’

‘Better today than yesterday.’ He was with a couple of other brown riders, both from Benden. D’gar hadn’t met them before, although he thought they were probably from Ramoth’s clutch as they looked a similar age to Sh’ran.

‘Want to join us?’ M’rell asked. ‘This stuff isn’t bad.’ He held up his cup, which contained some sort of pulped fruit juice. ‘Too hot for klah.’

‘I wondered if H’rek was here.’

‘He was, earlier, when we had lunch. He’s probably gone for a lie down in his wallow.’

‘His what?’

‘Well, they don’t have weyrs here, so the dragons just move some sand around until they’re comfortable and most riders make a shelter next to it.’

D’gar supposed that was what H’rek had been used to when he’d lived here before. M’rell poured him out a cup of juice. It was tangy and refreshing. ‘That’s pretty good.’

‘There are some benefits to being here.’

D’gar had a quick look around. People seemed to have settled very quickly, considering the disruption they’d had the previous day. ‘How is everyone?’

M’rell shrugged. ‘Some of the Lower caverns staff aren’t too happy. They want to go back to Benden.’

‘Can’t blame ‘em for that.’ The shorter of the two riders said. ‘They didn’t come here to get nearly eaten by Thread.’

‘No. I have to say, I wouldn’t fancy living out in the open, even with a dragon.’

’T’bor’s got more folk on watch now and regular patrols. He’s not going to get caught out again,’ the other rider added.

‘Well, he got a telling off, didn’t he?’ M’rell said.

D’gar raised his eyebrows. ‘From Benden?’

‘From Kylara. We all heard her, yesterday evening. “You sorry excuse for a man,” she said. “Left it all to me to get things organised.” She wasn’t at all happy.’

‘Screamed at him for a good half-hour,’ one of the Benden riders added. ‘Threw a few things too.’

‘Do you think he’ll be in trouble?’ M’rell asked. ‘I expect F’nor will report everything to the Weyrleader.’

‘I reckon so,’ D’gar said. Weyr autonomy meant that no Weyrleader could interfere with another, but Southern wasn’t exactly an independent Weyr; not yet anyway. T’bor might be called Weyrleader, but he still answered to F’lar and Lessa when it came down to it.

‘F’drun’s a bit full of it, as well. You’d think he’d saved the entire place single-handedly.’ M’rell sounded disgruntled.

‘That’s F’drun all over. I expect he’s trying to get back into Kylara’s good graces.’

One of the brown riders looked at the other. ‘She’ll probably go for it, too, now she’s fallen out with T’bor.’

D’gar had heard plenty about Kylara’s tricks by now from a variety of sources. Although she’d thrown F’drun out of her weyr after the failed mating flight, if he was her best chance of irritating T’bor, she’d use him again. And he’d use her. They really did deserve each other.

He finished his drink. ‘Any idea where I can find H’rek’s wallow?’

‘Out of here, turn left. Follow the path.’

‘Thanks.’

It was a pleasant stroll. On the way he picked some of the fruit from the low branches. It was a variety familiar to him from Southern Boll, but looked larger and more appetising than any he’d seen before. He’d said he would take some back for J’rud a couple of days ago and this time, he meant to keep that promise.

Pushing aside some of the fast-growing creepers, he saw Rioth curled in her sand wallow. It did look very comfortable. H’rek was leaning against her shoulder, dozing. Asleep, he appeared even younger and vulnerable in a way that made D’gar want to protect him.

Rioth opened an eye and regarded him. He wondered if she thought badly of him. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said softly, also projecting it mentally as he would when speaking with Herebeth. She didn’t answer; dragons very rarely spoke to anyone not their own rider, but her eye colour changed to a slowly whirling green-blue, meaning that she was content. It had to be enough.

Setting the fruit down carefully - he’d have to find some leaves to wrap it in - he settled down next to H’rek, leaning against him slightly, although not enough to disturb his rest. After a few seconds, H’rek shifted slightly to press himself closer. D’gar relaxed, enjoying these tranquil moments while they lasted; aware of the gentle sound of H’rek’s even breathing, the warmth of Rioth’s body against his back and the unfamiliar yet soothing noises of the jungle around them. It reminded him of a sunlit spring afternoon, at Fort Weyr, when he and S’brin had still been weyrlings; their dragons as yet untested against Thread. They’d been so full of optimism back then; still believing they’d make it to the end of the Pass. Nowadays he knew all too well that neither he, not anyone he loved was truly safe. All you could do was to live life to the full and enjoy it while you were still able to. And try not to argue, or do anything stupid to disrupt it.

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

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Shells!!! Will someone send F'drun back a few sharding turns already!!!!😈

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Ugh, why couldn't F'drun getting eaten by thread...  I do think they should have had at least more lookouts; after all they knew that thread did fall in the south.  Seemed like way to sloppy to keep everyone safe.  Glad that H'reck and D'gar got to talk things out...

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T'bor did not do well, but then. Neither did Kylara.

As for F'drun, I'd hoped he was out of the picture so to speak. But he seems to be worming his way back?

I would love to see a Dragon in the ocean. They seem to enjoy it so much.

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3 hours ago, Buz said:

As for F'drun, I'd hoped he was out of the picture so to speak. But he seems to be worming his way back?

F’drun got knocked back after the failed mating flight with Prideth and Ryth's injury, but now he’s finding new ways to gain influence. T'bor not being a very strong Weyrleader is good for him in Southern.

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