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

The Return to Benden - 1. Chapter 1

Rioth folded her wings close in to her body and dived into the sea. The wave she created washed over H’rek’s head, forcing him to swim underwater for a fair way before he finally surfaced to see his dragon floating serenely on the surface, sparkling droplets of water tumbling from her outstretched wings.

Thanks, Rioth. Nearly drowned me that time.

Sorry H’rek. But you wouldn’t have drowned. I would save you.

He swam over to her and scrambled aboard, sitting in his usual place between her neck ridges. Where was that itchy patch you were telling me about? He used the long-handled brush to scrub at her right flank.

Just up a bit. Yes, that’s it. She sighed contentedly and began to paddle her way across towards Vazalth. H’rek tried not to notice. It had been well over two months since her mating flight, but she and Vazalth seemed to have formed an attachment. Not that there was anything wrong with that, except it brought him into closer contact than he’d prefer with R’gan, Vazalth’s rider. They’d found it difficult ever since that awful morning. Not for the first time, H’rek wished that it had been a dragon belonging to a Weyrbred lad who had flown Rioth. It would have made for far less embarrassment. Rioth’s continuing fondness for Vazalth was worrying for another reason; in a few months she’d be ready to rise again and if he was her choice of mate then H’rek and R’gan would be forced into another situation neither of them were comfortable with.

Most of the time, he was able to put the memories at the back of his mind, somewhere safely out of reach. When he and R’gan had to speak to each other, they kept to neutral topics; the latest wing formations they’d been practicing, more efficient ways to get through the weyrling drill exercises, who could get the most skips from a stone skimmed across the surface of the lake.

Mating flights and their inevitable consequences apart, it was getting a bit boring here. Living in a tropical paradise with a backdrop of sun, sand and sea might sound idyllic, but now that the dragons were full grown and their training had almost come to an end, all the riders from Prideth’s clutch were itching to get back up north and start fighting Thread. It was hard to recall in detail the frantic days before they had been brought south as candidates, except that there had been a purpose and urgency at Benden Weyr that was lacking here. H’rek had asked several times when they were going to return (he wasn’t the only one, either) and had always been told that it would be “when the time was right”. Well, how could the time be any righter than now? Thread must have been falling for almost two Turns back home and they would surely be in need of reinforcements. F’nor had gone between to Benden a few times and was looking increasingly worried and worn out, which couldn’t mean things were going well back there. Frustrated, H’rek turned to the best source of information he knew of in Southern; his friend Bavi.

‘How do you get to find out so much? he asked her

‘Important people never notice us folk in the laundry,’ she told him. ‘Many’s the time I’ve been hanging out washing or scrubbing smalls and they just carry on talking as if I wasn’t there.’

‘So, what’s the latest news. Anything about when we’ll be going back north?'

‘There’s been some talk about that. Not sure when it’ll happen, though. I think they want to leave it as long as they can for your young dragons.’

‘Our dragons are fine. And Ramoth’s clutch matured Turns ago. So why wait any longer?’

‘A lot of folk are asking the same. Not all the workers or the riders are Weyrbred. They’ve families they want to visit, but no one’s been allowed away from here. It’s not right.’

H’rek often wondered what had become of his family farmhold in Southern Boll. His little sister Hamarra would be nearly twelve Turns now, leaving her childhood behind. Even though he knew his life would have become increasingly difficult had he not been Searched when he was, they were still his family and he missed them. It would be good to pay a visit and show off Rioth, maybe even take Hamarra flying across the fields. He imagined her whooping with joy as they crossed those familiar acres which had once seemed so vast to him, but that he could now overfly in a few minutes.

The days passed unremarkably with the usual lessons and inspections. All of the teachers, even stolid J’cul, seemed increasingly irritated and distracted. F’nor had dark circles under his eyes, visible even through his tan, T’bor looked miserable and Kylara was as like as not to snap your head off.

The drills intensified. They practiced fighting ‘Thread’ using the long fibrous strands from some of the trees as a substitute. They’d take it in turns to drop the stuff from above for their clutchmates to dodge and flame before changing around so that everyone had a go. Riding a flaming dragon was exhilarating, even if it made the heat even more exhausting. H’rek wasn’t the only one to feel tired all the time. Oddly, the dragons seemed unaffected. They just loved basking in the sunshine and swimming in the warm sea.

A month went by. F’nor had just returned from one of his infrequent trips away. Rumours began to spread that they would definitely be returning to Benden soon. He sought out Bavi to see what she knew.

‘Aye, it’s true,’ she said. ‘We’ve started packing up already. I reckon we’ll be on our way in a sevenday. It’ll be a lot easier than when we came, with all these extra dragons to carry things. And I certainly won’t mind getting back to the Lower Caverns. Think of all the gossip I’ll have missed while I was out here.’

As more and more stuff began to be packed for their return, the place they’d called home began to have a deserted, empty feel to it. The buildings would remain of course and the herdbeasts left behind to multiply, but all the useful, portable equipment was to be taken back to Benden. During the last sevenday, H’rek began to feel like a farm boy again with the amount of time he spent digging up tubers, packing fruit and shovelling grain into sacks.

At last it was time. The evening before departure, they had a feast in the communal dining hall and wine flowed freely. There was an air of celebration and relief. Even F’nor looked less exhausted, despite having been supervising the preparations and helping with the physical work as hard as any of the men in his Wing.

Kylara reclined on a long couch, being fanned by her serving woman. As he passed by on his way to refill his plate, H’rek heard her saying, ‘I shall be so glad to get back to civilisation. I never want to see this dreary place again.’

Back in his weyr, he settled down to sleep, hearing all the familiar night sounds of the south; nocturnal animals calling, the sea lapping against the distant rocks and music drifting up from the beach from some of the folk who weren’t yet tired enough to go to bed. It was hard to imagine that all too soon they’d be back in a proper Weyr, surrounded by rock rather than softly waving branches and busy with people and dragons. Rioth was excited too. He tried to describe Benden Weyr to her, but she had never known anywhere other than here so it was hard for her to imagine the vastness of the Bowl surrounded by high, rocky walls with hollowed out caverns and individual weyrs.

You’ll see soon enough, he told her. There’ll be lots of new dragons to make friends with.

Lots of dragons, she mused. I wonder if there will be any as handsome as Vazalth?

Oh yes, Rioth. Lots and lots to choose from. Even as he replied, he tried not to think too much about what that meant. He slept fitfully, that last night in Southern, waking from dreams in which hundreds of dragons chased after a brightly glowing Rioth as their riders closed in on him.

The preparations for leaving took most of the morning. The larger dragons were rigged up with nets to transport heavier items, but everyone was expected to carry something. Rioth ended up festooned with an assortment of pots, pans and eating bowls, tied up in sacks, as well as H’rek’s few possessions and spare clothes.

You be careful when you take off, H’rek warned her. We don’t want to break anything.

She gave her wings a shake, making some of the objects shift and rattle. I hope nothing falls off.

I don’t think it will.

At last it was time to go. As well as goods, most dragons carried at least one passenger. Unsurprisingly, Bavi had chosen to ride behind him.

‘Are you sure Rioth can take both our weight?’ she asked.

Tell her she’s not that heavy, Rioth said. Even though she is a bit plump.

Tactfully, H’rek rephrased his dragon’s reply. ‘She says she’s fine with it.’

‘Good. Warn me when we’re going to go between won’t you? No one did, last time and it was horrible.’

‘I’ll give you a countdown.’

Bavi wriggled slightly. ‘Are you sure these straps are safe?’

‘Quite sure.’ He’d never heard her sound so worried before.

She does not enjoy riding dragons.

‘Hold on. We’re about to take off.’

By the time they came out of between over Benden Weyr, she was clinging on around his waist so tightly he thought she would never let go. As they descended, he realised he’d forgotten how cold it could be in the north. Even though the sun was shining, the air was crisp and as they descended into the shade, he wished he’d put on something warmer.

When he helped Bavi down, she was still shaking. ‘You all right?’

‘I will be in a moment. Oh my!’ She put a hand to her heart. ‘Thank you Rioth.’

While she composed herself, he started to unload. Looking around, he realised how huge Benden Weyr was. All the dragons and people from Southern took up only a small part of the vast Bowl.

The next few hours were fairly hectic, but in an organised manner. Lower Caverns workers came to help take things to where they needed to be. The riders and dragons were allocated weyrs of their own. H’rek thought he probably wasn’t the only one to find the enclosed space confining after Southern’s open sided buildings. His weyr was heated through a duct that breathed out warm air, but even that didn’t bring the stone surroundings up to anywhere near the humid warmth he had become used to. He wondered if Rioth would feel chilly too.

A little, but it is much warmer than between. I will get used to it.

I suppose I will too.

They had some food in the dining hall. Everyone had put on knitted sweaters and a quite a few kept their wherhide jackets on too. H’rek was glad of a warming bowl of stew and hot klah to drink. He was conscious of being surrounded by lots of unknown people in a relatively small space and of how everything here was strange and new to him. He noticed that all the riders from Southern had chosen to sit together. At least everyone around the nearest tables were familiar faces.

'Maybe it’s the cold, but I feel much more awake than usual,’ L’cal commented. There were murmurs of agreement from round the table. H’rek realised that he too felt much more alert and clear-headed than he would normally at this time of the day.

They spent the tail end of the afternoon going out with one of the Wings on patrol around Benden Hold, then practiced going between to and from all the local landmarks to familiarise them with the area. It was very different from the typical afternoon down south, when it was always too hot to do anything but laze around or swim in the sea.

If you want to swim here, you’ll have to use the lake, he told Rioth. In the early evening sunshine, there were quite a few dragons using the facility. He noticed their riders didn’t go in. Must be even more chilly in the water than on land, he thought.

His weyr had a good view of the Bowl, but it was on the side that got morning sunshine rather than afternoon and he still couldn’t get properly warm. He had Rioth drop him off near the laundry, taking a few bits and pieces with him as an excuse. She immediately flew up to the fire heights to bask on the sun-warmed stone.

Inside the laundry the steamy heat made him feel right at home. He found Bavi ironing shirts in front of a stove.

‘You’ve picked the right place,’ he said. ‘Can I get these things washed, please.’

‘The basket’s just there.’ She pointed. ‘When you’ve dropped them off, come back over. I’ve found something out you’ll want to hear.’

When he did, she quickly put her iron back on the stove and guided him into a store room.

‘You’ll never guess what the date is,’ she said quickly.

Was that all? ‘Um, your birthing day?’ He was always useless when it came to remembering things like that.

‘No silly, the actual date. Today.’

He thought for a moment. ‘Well, it must be the third year of the Ninth Pass. It’s spring…’

She shook her head. ‘It’s only the day after we left.’

‘What?’ He didn’t quite understand. ‘How can it be? I’ve been away for a Turn and a half. You were there even longer. Are you sure?’

Sure as eggs hatch dragons. Here was me thinking I was going to have missed Turns worth of juicy gossip and Mela’s baby being birthed and I’ve not missed any of it.’

‘So, hang on. Let me get this right. Today is…’ he reached back into his memory for dates. ‘The ninth day of the fourth month?’

She nodded. ‘And the first year of this Pass.’

‘Scorch it! How did that happen?’

‘I thought you might know. No one down here can figure it out. If they hadn’t seen all those dragons come back fully grown, they’d have called me a liar.’

‘I’m just a lowly green rider. No one tells me anything.’

‘Well, ask someone. Drop it into conversation, casual-like. F’nor, maybe.’

‘Not seen him all day. I expect he’ll be with the Weyrleader.’

She considered this for a moment. ‘Hmm, yes. Something’s going on up there. Ralisa saw Mnementh fly off somewhere with the Masterharper earlier on. Apparently, there was some big meeting while we were away. About you-know-what.’ She rolled her eyes skywards. ‘Still, won’t be so bad now they’ve got all you extra ones to help.’

‘I know. Rioth’s as excited as I am about fighting Thread.’

Bavi smiled. ‘Rioth’s probably got her mind on other things too. ‘Bout that time again, isn’t it?’

He wished she’d not reminded him of that. Shards! What if Rioth rose in the middle of Threadfall? Did that ever happen, or did a dragon’s natural instincts prevent it?

‘Well, she’s got plenty to choose from here. And so have you. Bet you’ve had a few admiring glances already, eh?’

It would be lying to say he’d not noticed any. ‘A few.’

‘There you go, then.’

He wished he could look at it in the matter-of-fact way Bavi did. ‘We’ll see.’

‘Anyhow, I’d best get on. The laundry’ll be piling up and things won’t iron themselves. Let me know if you find out anything.’

‘Sure.’

When they all met up for dinner, he mentioned the anomaly to his clutchmates, but - as ever - they weren’t really interested.

‘Don’t you see what this means?’ He tried to explain what must be - had to be - true. ‘We’ve been gone a day here but we were there for almost two Turns. We must have travelled through time or something.’

‘So? Does it matter? Just means we’ve not missed all the excitement,’ M’shol said, through a mouthful of tubers.

‘Anyway, it’s not up to us to be doing stuff like thinking,’ R’gan said in a slightly stuffy manner. ‘We’re here to fight Thread.’ That got a few cheers from around the table.

‘Yes, and if us bronzes don’t need to think about it, then green riders definitely don’t,’ L’cal put in.

B’dor sniggered. ’Greens only think about one thing anyway.’

‘Oh, shut it!’ They were infuriating sometimes.

‘See what I mean,’ B’dor continued. ‘Definitely proddy. So, who’s going to be the lucky one this time?’

‘None of you if I’ve any choice in the matter.’ Hopeless, the lot of them. If only there was someone he could have a serious talk with; someone who actually had half a brain and used it. ‘You’re all a bunch of dimglows.’ He left his food half-eaten and stormed off before anyone had a chance to say anything else.

It wasn’t the best night’s sleep he’d ever had, especially as he knew he’d have to face them all again in the morning. He woke early only to find that Rioth was definitely starting to take an interest in other dragons, following their flights across the Bowl as she perched on her ledge to catch the morning sunshine. Tomorrow was Threadfall over Telgar. If she could just hang on until after that, it would be fine. Well, not fine, but he’d cope. Somehow. Anyway, she’d not changed colour yet and he’d not noticed any of the symptoms that had transferred through to him the last time, so that must mean she was still a few days off rising. Getting annoyed with your clutchmates for being thicker than a constipated dragon’s tail didn’t count. It was really annoying how whenever he snapped at anyone (even when they deserved it) they always came back with the ‘proddy’ tag. Oh well, another one of those annoyances that came with the territory of being a green rider.

At breakfast, he didn’t say much to anyone, which brought further snide comments. He ignored them as best he could and after eating quickly, left them all and went to the laundry to pick up his clothes. It was on his way there that he noticed a couple of unfamiliar bronze dragons coming in to land just outside the Queen’s Weyr. Two more were already there. He’d thought he knew all the bronzes at Benden, but these looked different. Smaller, stockier and more compact in build. Canth was as large, and he was just a brown. Most of the riders were older men and by their shoulder knots, they were Weyrleaders. How could that be? F’lar was Weyrleader here, T’bor had been at Southern. All the other Weyrs were long since abandoned and empty. It was very strange. As he passed, the men began dismounting, so he thought he’d better clear off before someone told him off for staring.

In the laundry, he went over to the niches where clean clothes were left, neatly folded and pressed and found his things.

H’rek! Hey! Guess what?’

It was Bavi, of course.

‘Have you seen the dragons? The bronzes?’

‘Yes, I was just wondering where they’d come from.’

‘Well…’ The smile on her face was the kind she only wore when she was in possession of some particularly juicy gossip. ‘You’ll never guess what happened last night?’

‘You know how bad I am at these guessing games.’ He sighed. ‘Oh, all right. Kylara took a vow of celibacy?’

She shook her head.

‘Lessa caught her in bed with F’lar and half-killed her?’

‘Nowhere close. Think about the dragons again.'

‘Right.’ What was the most unlikely thing to have happened? ‘A legendary Wing of dragons, long thought lost, reappeared out of between and ended up here.’ Actually, that was quite a good story. Maybe he should have been a Harper.

‘Almost,’ she said, breathlessly. ‘Those dragons out there are from the other five Weyrs. The abandoned Weyrs. Lessa found them and brought them here. They were talking about it all last night and this morning.’

H’rek shook his head. ‘How do you find out all these things?’

She put a finger to the side of her nose. ‘Secret.’ Then, after a short pause, ‘Oh, all right. You know they have those service shafts to deliver refreshments to some of the weyrs? Well, if you stick your head inside, at a certain angle, you can hear all sorts. And that’s what one of the night kitchen girls did. It’s all over the place this morning. Everyone’s going to be told later, so don’t give it away.’

‘I should think there’ll be quite a few folk wondering what’s going on when they see those bronzes. And the other Weyrleaders. Where did the Weyrwoman find them?’

‘I don’t know that part. But isn’t it just incredible? Like a ballad.’

By the time he left, having been sworn to secrecy by Bavi (although most of the Lower Cavern workers seemed to be in on the story by now), the bronze dragons had flown off to catch the sun on the rim.

He shielded his eyes and looked up, trying to pick out Rioth. Where are you, girl? I need a lift back up to my weyr.

Do you? Right now? I’m enjoying the sun and the company.

And there she was, indeed, cosying up with two of the bronzes.

I’m sure they’ll still be there when you get back. He groaned inwardly at the thought of his shameless dragon flirting with Weyrleaders’ bronzes. She grumbled a little, but flew down to him, pulling a few flashy aerial moves on the way.

Tiroth and Branth are so handsome, she said.

More than Vazalth?

He is still young and can be silly. They are much more sensible and know lots of things. But I do not think either of them would chase me.

You’d better hope not. The last thing he needed was for his dragon to cause some sort of diplomatic incident.

It was a strange morning. He’d expected to be called to duty; for someone, at least to tell him what they were supposed to be doing in preparation for Threadfall, but nothing happened. He busied himself cleaning and oiling Rioth’s straps and arranging his few mementos around the weyr so that it felt more homely. When he went back out to the ledge, the Bowl seemed very quiet. The unknown bronzes had gone, but quite a few of the Weyr’s own dragons were perched around the rim and there was a small crowd of people gathering just outside the dining hall.

Any idea what’s going on, Rioth?

We are all wondering as well. I was sad to see Tiroth leave, but I will see him again tomorrow at Telgar, he said.

Really? I need to go down and find out what’s happening, if you can tear yourself away for a moment. It had been so much more convenient being able to walk everywhere at Southern. Only a few of the individual weyrs at Benden could be accessed via steps, so for most occupants, the only way to and from their weyr was on dragon back.

Rioth took him down, then flew back up to the heights. She must have got to know most of the dragons in Benden by now, he thought.

‘There you are.’ M’shol grabbed him by the arm. ‘You’ll never guess what’s happened.’

He pretended to think for a while. ‘Let me see… the five abandoned Weyrs are full of dragons again and their Weyrleaders all turned up here this morning for a meeting?’

His face fell. ‘How did you know that?’

‘I have my sources. Us greens find out all the gossip.’

The others joined them. ‘Come on,’ said J’tir. ‘We’ve all to go inside. The Weyrleader’s going to make an announcement.’

They crowded in to the dining hall. Most of the tables were already occupied by seasoned riders, so as the newest and youngest, they found spaces where they could. H’rek was left standing along with quite a few other riders from Southern, being pushed and jostled as more people tried to squeeze in. As well as all the riders, most of the Lower Cavern workers had paused in whatever they’d been doing. Some had children on their shoulders, for a better view.

After what seemed a long time, they were pushed aside again as the Weyrwoman, the Weyrleader, T’bor and F’nor came through. F’lar jumped up onto a table and helped Lessa up beside him. She looked different, H’rek thought. Almost as if she’d recovered from a long illness, although she’d looked fine when he last saw her two days ago, here at Benden.

Everyone quieted down and F’lar spoke. ‘It’s been a difficult time for us all, with the return of Thread and the casualties we suffered after our first fight. Up until yesterday, it looked as if Benden Weyr was going to be fighting alone in the coming battles to keep Pern Thread free. But I - we - have some very good news.’ He turned to his Weyrwoman. ‘Lessa. I think you should tell them the rest.’

She stepped forward. ‘It’s hard to believe that only yesterday morning I set off from here on my way to take an ancient tapestry back to Ruatha. The words of the Question Song had been going round and round my head until suddenly I realised what they meant. The clue that they’d been giving us all along, right under our noses. “Gone away, gone ahead…” When the other five Weyrs were abandoned, four hundred Turns ago, it was because they came ahead to our time. To here and now, to aid us in our fight. Many of you may have seen the Weyrleaders’ bronzes here this morning…’

F’lar butted in. ‘Lessa is too modest. It was only through her act of incredible courage that we have this assistance. She and Ramoth jumped between through time itself to speak to the Weyrleaders of four hundred Turns ago and tell them of our plight. She is the one who brought them here. She is the one we all have to thank.’

A cheer rose up, growing in volume. Outside, the dragons bugled their approval too.

Lessa smiled. ‘So tomorrow, at Telgar, we no longer stand alone. We will be joined by the other Weyrs with eighteen hundred dragons and all of their experience in fighting Thread.’

F’lar spoke again. ‘Plus, we have seventy-two of our own dragons back from the south to join us as well. This afternoon, your Wingleaders will be briefing you so that we’re all fully prepared for the morning. I’m sure you are all - as I am - looking forward to it.’

People began to clap. Another cheer rose up. It was the best news they could have had. H’rek felt as if he would remember the moment forever. Not just because it was history in the making. What he’d just heard proved he had been right in his theories. Dragons really could travel through time.

 

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

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Time travel paradoxes always nag at me. One of those things I have to stop trying to think through in order not to end up confused. 

Excellent story again with nearly flawless writing. Thank you for sharing. Now, off your butt; it's time to start posting the multi chapter story. Rioth's ready to rise again and H'rek better be ready to get mauled. :P

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Wonderful chapter. It fits seamlessly into the Pern saga.  I am excited about the upcoming thread battle.  I also need to unearth my copies of Pern in order catch up

Great job.

Edited by Wolflady
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Beautiful rendition of pern. Always been a fan of those books, and it's great to read a fan fic that actually does the original proud. Very good job, and I hope there is more stories to follow. 

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I will shortly be posting a much longer story in this series, with some of the same characters and a few new ones as well. 

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Looking forward to the new story.  I find it interesting to fit the new stories in with the original.  the new ones do well with Pern lore

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Well written and really enjoyed this latest update.  This seems to tie in some with the others stories of Pern, but has a uniqueness about it as well.  

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Thank you @Mawgrim. I actually didn't know the series of the Dragonriders of Pern, so your short stories were actually my introduction the the world. It also let me to read the Fan Fiction stories of other authors in the site, and they are also good, particularly @dkstories. I am now looking forward to your multi chapter story.

 

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Mawgrim

Posted (edited)

It’s well worth reading the 'Dragonriders of Pern' trilogy by Anne McCaffrey, which consists of 'Dragonflight', 'Dragonquest' and 'The White Dragon'. They were published way back in the 1970's and 80's and you can buy decent paperback copies from many online used book stores.

Edited by Mawgrim
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