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

This is a prequel to Gone Away, Gone Ahead and tells the story of many of the Fort Weyr riders who end up going forward to the Ninth Pass with Lessa.
There are no spoilers for Gone Away, Gone Ahead, just some more detail about the characters and situations already mentioned in that work.

Hatchings - 2. Second Time Around

They’d started running again, even though Serebrin still found himself short of breath after recovering from the fever. ‘Have to get back in shape,’ he panted as they started on their third circuit of the lake.

‘Dragons don’t care,’ Detgar said. He didn’t mind running, especially when it was with Serebrin but given the choice, he’d rather lie in bed a while longer. Particularly with Serebrin.

‘I care. And we’ll be the fittest pair of weyrlings they’ve had.’

He’d lost some weight during his illness. Not that he’d ever be as skinny as Detgar. Serebrin was tall, but not lanky like a lot of teenage boys became when they shot up in height. He was blessed with a muscular physique which had been further enhanced through his work with the Weyr maintenance crew and the punishing exercise routines he voluntarily put himself through.

‘Shall we take a rest?’ Detgar suggested. He didn’t want Serebrin to overdo it.

‘No. Not till we’ve done this circuit.’

Some of the weyrlings were already up and about, butchering carcasses to feed their fast-growing dragons. Detgar found his eyes drawn to the deep bronze hide of K’torl’s Ganath. He was still the best looking of the whole clutch and seemed to have bypassed the gawky stage many young dragons went through. ‘Kadoth’s looking very bright lately. I’ve heard it said she’s probably going to rise soon.’

Serebrin just nodded. It wasn’t until they stopped and he’d had a chance to catch his breath that he commented. ‘She’s not risen for nearly two turns. And her last clutch…’ He shook his head.

Kadoth had only laid fifteen eggs the last time and two of them hadn’t even hatched. But then, she was nearly forty Turns old and she’d been badly Threadscored just after her previous mating flight, so it wasn’t surprising.

‘She’s had some good clutches in the past,’ Detgar said in her defence. Unlike Mardra, who could be snappy, Valli, Kadoth’s rider, always had a kind word for the weyrbrats.

‘Yes, but think of the bronze rider having to bed poor old Valli. Not much fun for him.’

‘Or her, I expect.’ Mating flights weren’t always enjoyable for the human participants. Detgar had seen the after effects too many times to think there might be any romance in them. Riders often ended up injured. It wasn’t something he looked forward to much. He preferred to know what he was doing when having sex, rather than being in the sort of daze a lot of riders found themselves when their dragons rose to mate.

‘Be all right for us, though.’ Serebrin grinned. ‘Nothing like a good gold flight, is there?’

Gold flights meant everyone had the day off. Well, with all that dragonlust in the air, nothing got done, apart from the obvious. ‘Maybe we can nab a space in one of the bathing pools this time,’ he suggested. The last time a queen dragon rose - Loranth - it had caught them by surprise and they’d ended up in a cramped store cupboard, all the best places having already been taken. Detgar had been bruised for quite a while afterwards.

‘Sounds like a good idea. Or even one of the empty weyrs, if there’s enough warning.’ Serebrin stood up and stretched. ‘Come on. Once more round, then we’ll go and get some breakfast.’

Kadoth rose on the second day of the tenth month. It wasn’t a long flight; the aftermath of the scoring had left her less agile than she’d once been. That would mean a smaller clutch for sure. ‘Bathing pool’s definitely a lot more comfortable than a store cupboard,’ Detgar said afterwards, as they queued for dinner.

T’garrin, one of the younger blue riders, was already taking bets as to how many eggs would be laid. ‘Care to have a gamble?’ he called over. ‘Especially as this is going to matter to you two.’

‘All right. I’ll say… fourteen.’

T’garrin made a note on a piece of well worn hide. ‘You want to try and guess the number of bronzes?’

‘Not until the eggs are on the sand.’ Some people reckoned you could tell the colour of the dragon inside the egg by the patterning on the shell and its size. Detgar had seen enough Hatchings to know it was all guesswork. The only colour you could be absolutely sure of was gold; a golden shell meant there was a young queen dragon inside. He didn’t think it likely Kadoth would lay a golden egg at her age, but you could estimate the number of likely bronzes from the quantity; generally, bronzes made up about five percent of the Weyr’s population.

‘I’m still putting you down for a blue,’ T’garrin said to Serebrin. ‘Not sure about you any more,’ he added to Detgar.

‘What’s changed?’

‘None of the greens so much as sniffed at you. In fact, the only hatchling who seemed a tiny bit interested was Ganath.’

‘Ganath!’ Serebrin sounded surprised. ‘You didn’t tell me about that.’

‘It was only for a second.’ Detgar tried to make it seem as if it hadn’t mattered. In truth, he’d re-lived that awful Hatching many a time, both in dreams and when his mind started spinning with might-have-beens. What if that had been his only chance and he’d deliberately turned it down? ‘Imagine me with a bronze.’ He forced a laugh.

It had obviously set Serebrin thinking, though. Over the next month, while summer’s golden light faded and Kadoth started to fill out as her eggs matured, he mentioned it a few times. ‘I can - sort of - see you with a bronze, you know. You’re clever. You think a lot. You figure things out.’

‘I’m not a leader, though.’

‘Wasn’t your dad a bronze rider?’

‘Agarra’s not sure. Anyway, apart from an increased likelihood of Impressing, there’s no statistical proof that a person will end up with the same colour dragon as their parents. You might as well say I’m bound to be good at cooking because that’s what my mum does. Or that you’ll Impress a gold because your great-gran did.’ That got a laugh out of S’brin. ‘Anyway, they can speculate all they like. It’s down to the dragon in the end.’

Turn’s End came and went. The feasting and dancing always made those dark days more tolerable and the freezing weather gave a welcome respite from Threadfall; intense cold froze the spores into harmless black dust. Just a sevenday into the new Turn, Kadoth flew to the Hatching Ground and laid twelve eggs over a two day period.

‘Twelve’s not many.’ Serebrin grimaced. ‘If they even all hatch.’

‘It’ll be fine.’ Detgar wished he felt as confident as he sounded. ‘Just make sure you don’t catch anything this time. Apart from a dragon, that is.’

As candidates, they had to attend the same lectures they’d done before. Detgar often found his attention wandering as he’d already memorised everything they were supposed to know. Snow fell on the Weyr and the waiting time was broken up by snowball fights. Some of the younger dragons and their riders amused themselves by sliding down the snow covered rockfall at the far end of the Weyr Bowl. Serebrin’s duties with the maintenance crew meant that he was busy fixing broken heating systems while Detgar was glad that his studious nature meant he was working in the warmth of the archives, assisting the Weyrharper.

‘You know, if you don’t Impress, you could always go to the Harper Hall,’ Ballaran suggested. He was always good at sensing when something was worrying Detgar.

‘Me? I can’t play anything. Or even sing very well.’

‘No, but you’re good at teaching. Archiving too. Not all harpers are performers.’

‘I’ve a while to go yet.’ The age limit was set at twenty, although most who were going to Impress did so before then. Still, with the end of the Pass in sight, the gold dragons would be rising less often and the clutch sizes steadily diminishing. He preferred not to think about a future without a dragon. He’d lived in the Weyr all his life. The world outside held no appeal, especially if it meant being apart from Serebrin. Although if Serebrin Impressed and he didn’t they’d drift apart anyway.

‘Still, something to consider, eh? I wouldn’t recommend you if I didn’t think you were suitable.’

‘Thanks.’

As they snuggled together in bed that night, Detgar felt that he had to say something, if only to warn Serebrin that things might not go as they’d planned. ‘If you Impress and I don’t…’

‘Don’t say that. Of course we both will.’

‘I didn’t last time. Maybe I won’t at all.’

‘You worry too much.’ Serebrin pulled him closer, enveloping him in the warmth of his body. ‘Even if I’d been well enough last time, who’s to say I’d have Impressed then? Maybe neither of us will succeed this time either. Still, we’ve got Turns to go.’

There was a thaw before the Hatching. The Bowl turned from a pristine white wonderland to a slushy mess in a matter of days. Thread fell over Southern Boll and it was a bad one, with two fatalities and a several injured men and dragons. The mood of the Weyr was sombre.

‘A good Hatching will cheer everyone up,’ the Weyrlingmaster told them at the end of their afternoon class. ‘Looks like it might happen tomorrow, so everyone be ready.’

Detgar didn’t sleep much, wondering if he’d be lying in the weyrling barracks the following night, a dragon curled up on the couch next to his bed. Or not. Most probably not. In the morning, they joined the other candidates in the dining hall for breakfast, but he couldn’t eat much. He felt sick.

‘Try and eat something,’ Serebrin encouraged him. ‘Or you’ll be as hungry as your dragon by the time the Hatching’s over.’

‘I can’t. Sorry.’

The morning dragged. The candidates were put on clean-up duty, shovelling piles of dirty, wet snow to one side of the landing area; a job they could set aside quickly when necessary. The air was damp and chilly. A few dragons peered out from the ledges, but most stayed in the warmth of their weyrs. ‘It’s too cold for the eggs to hatch,’ someone joked. ‘Those dragons are staying put until the weather warms up.’

The humming started right in the middle of the first sitting for lunch. Riders grumbled at having to leave their food. Detgar was glad. It meant no one could try to force him to eat anything. He and Serebrin put on their white robes, gave each other a hug and waited for their lifts into the Hatching Ground.

The heat of the Sands was welcome. Kadoth sat to one side of her eggs. Unlike Loranth, who tended to stack them close together, she preferred to space them out in a curving line. It was easy to see which had started to rock and which were as yet unmoving.

The terraces slowly filled with dragons and spectators. Detgar caught sight of Agarra waving to him and quickly looked away. His stomach churned and he hoped he wouldn’t embarrass himself by throwing up on the Sands. There were twenty-three candidates today. He recognised many of the faces from last time and wondered if they felt as nervous as he did. Maybe they were just better at hiding it.

‘Good luck,’ Serebrin whispered, giving his hand a final squeeze, before going over to join a group to the right-hand side of the stands. They clustered around one of the most active eggs, a large one patterned with blue-grey shapes that looked somewhat like clouds. Detgar wondered if he should follow, then decided to stay in the middle. That way, he could move whichever way he might need to. He tried to banish the worry and replace it with welcoming thoughts but his mind didn’t want to co-operate. Shards! If he carried on like this he’d put off any dragon. He briefly shut his eyes and focussed on memories of happy times. That was better, if he could hold it there.

The rocking of the cloud-coloured egg was becoming more frantic. The boys drew closer, then as a crack suddenly split it from top to bottom, a few jumped back. A midnight blue leg emerged, then a wing and finally the hatchling shook himself free. The humming grew more intense, dragons craning forward as he made his choice. Not Serebrin, who stepped to one side when it became clear the blue wasn’t looking for him.

Detgar carried on scanning the rest of the eggs. Most were moving now; a good sign. With something to concentrate his mind, he felt less sick. A crack appeared near the top of another egg. Several boys rushed toward it, a few of them hovering indecisively as another, on the opposite side also showed signs of breaking open. The crown of the first egg shattered and a dark brown head appeared. The young dragon seemed to be taking his time, looking this way and that, unconcerned that the rest of his body was still enclosed within the shell.

Meanwhile, the other egg was moving increasingly violently, attracting more attention from the candidates, Serebrin included. Detgar’s eyes flicked from one to the other egg, unsure which was the right choice. He found himself drawn to the brown dragon, who was still making no effort to break free. ‘What are you waiting for, you silly dragon?’ he muttered. Then an awful thought struck him. What if that dragon couldn’t find his person? Was he about to witness a tragedy? He edged closer, willing the brown to make his mind up. To do something. Could dragons think too much, as he was always being told he did?

Over to his left, another two eggs had split, drawing the crowd away. A pale green hatchling rolled out, knocking over two boys. As she struggled to get to her feet, she inadvertently trod on one of them, her sharp talons drawing blood from his thigh. She ignored his cries as she went her way obliviously, not yet finding who she wanted.

Well, aren’t you going to even look at me, he thought, trying to project it towards the green. She didn’t send so much as a glance toward him.

What is wrong with thinking too much?

The voice sounded clearly inside his head. He spun round, unsure if he’d heard correctly, or who was speaking. Who are you? he thought back. Where are you?

Over here. And I am not a silly dragon. It is comfortable in my shell.

He looked back towards the dark brown dragon, still ensconced in the remains of his egg. You must be hungry. All hatchlings were hungry; the reason why they needed to hatch was because they had used up all the nutrients inside the egg.

I suppose I am. With that, he gave a shake and a kick, spreading his wings as he finally freed himself. He really was a gorgeous colour, Detgar thought, like freshly brewed klah. He found himself walking towards the dragon, unaware of his feet burning on the sand. A fierce feeling of love and protectiveness enfolded him. Are you sure it’s me you want?

Of course.

He gazed into the swirling eyes of his dragon. Herebeth. The name echoed inside his head. He spoke it aloud for the benefit of the spectators.

Come on then, Herebeth. Let’s get you your first meal.

That sounds like a good idea. I really am quite hungry now.

They made their slow way towards the entrance. As he walked another voice he knew well rang out across the Hatching Ground.

‘Her name is Zemianth.’

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

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❤️...it's a dragon thing...love any story that has dragons

 

 

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The first chapter didn't particularly but this one really made me sad; I guess because we know what will happen eventually.  Well written though, just felt so somber reading it.  

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Okay. I'll admit it. I'm abit slow. It wasn't until Herebeth said what his name was that I clicked.

I did read about it being a prequel, but I didn't know how far 'ahead' it was. Plus I didn't realise Rider's shorten their names once they've impressed.

Duh!

"Clueless City this way folks. Please check around you to ensure you've got everything. Wallets, phones, bags, etc. Once this train leaves the station, any lost property queries will have to be made via our Head Office. Mind the step and Thank You for travelling with InterCity Rail..."

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A brown is a very good option for Detgar, and more likely to win a mating flight for a green every time. I'm glad the boys are weyrlings together and have a chance to be weyrmates.

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1 minute ago, Timothy M. said:

A brown is a very good option for Detgar, and more likely to win a mating flight for a green every time. I'm glad the boys are weyrlings together and have a chance to be weyrmates.

Absolutely. It all turned out well for them in the end, hatching-wise.

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