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

Canon-typical violence, character deaths

Threadfall - 25. Foreboding

D'gar gets a warning

The usual festivities marked the end of another Turn. New weyrlings joined the existing riders and with Loranth’s clutch of seventeen eggs hardening on the Sands, there would soon be a few more. T’ron solemnly read out the list of those who hadn’t made it; K’torl and H’fra among them. It wasn’t just riders who had died, of course; there were many other names on the list; weyrfolk who had lived to a ripe old age before passing away of natural causes, several who had succumbed to illness or accident and three women who had died as a result of complications from childbirth.

D’gar listened carefully to the names as they were read out. Forty-three riders - meaning dragons as well - had perished over the Turn; an average of one every third Fall. Several more had retired from active duty through age or injury. Forty-eight weyrlings had been called up to join the Wings. If the casualty rate remained the same, he worked out there would be more pairs lost, injured or retired each Turn than there would be replacements available. By the end of the Pass, Fort Weyr’s population of fighting dragons would have declined considerably. It was a sobering thought.

At the beginning of second month, Suderoth rose to mate.

‘Better late than never,’ N’rir commented, just before S’brin dragged D’gar back to their weyr. A lot of people had their lunches cut short that day, meaning everyone had a good appetite at dinner time.

‘I don’t see why Dorniath couldn’t have chased her,’ G’dol complained loudly. ‘She’s only a junior queen after all.’

‘And a Fort queen,’ I’grast pointed out. ‘It wasn’t an open flight, so only Fort dragons were allowed to take part. You should know how it works by now, so quit whining. Anyway, Dorniath caught a green last month, so he probably wouldn’t have been interested.’

‘I would have, though. It’d make a change to find myself with a woman during a flight.’ He still sounded sulky.

‘I pity the green riders who have to put up with you.’ It was clear I’grast didn’t like him. ‘And the reason you don’t have much success with women outside of a flight is because, guess what, they want someone to listen to what they’re saying rather than talking about himself the whole time.’

D’gar felt like cheering. Only I’grast, or R’feem himself would get away with talking to G’dol like that and R’feem was too polite. He’d be glad when the secondment term ended next month and G’dol returned to Benden. He glanced down the table. J’rud and Sh’frun were together as usual. Now there was a pair who wouldn’t be happy to be parted. Idly, he wondered if one or the other might ask for a permanent transfer.

‘Thinking again?’ S’brin nudged him.

‘Oh, er, yes. Secondments.’

‘What about them?’

‘Once the Benden riders go back, then I suppose it’s just a matter of time before I get sent off.’ It all depended on the number of spare riders available at any Weyr as to when the Weyrleader decided he could safely arrange swaps. Here at Fort, Loranth’s recent Hatching meant that there were a few more weyrlings to bag up and grade firestone, making it possible for the older ones to move on to delivery duties and for their seniors - Suderoth’s clutch from almost two Turns ago - to be tapped for the Wings. He reckoned it might be sometime in the summer, if it was going to happen at all this Turn.

‘I’m still not looking forward to that.’

‘Me neither.’

‘Can’t you get out of it? Say you don’t want to go?’

D’gar shrugged. ‘I could, I suppose. But it might jeopardise my chances of becoming a Wingsecond later on and I know how much you’d love a bigger weyr with our own private pool.’

S’brin smiled. ‘There is that, I suppose.’

‘It probably won’t happen for a while, anyway.’

The month wore on. There hadn’t been many missed Falls this Turn, apart from those over the northern part of Ruatha. It just hadn’t been cold enough to freeze Thread to black dust, although certainly cold enough for D’gar, like many others, to be suffering with chilblains. Thankfully, third month brought a hint of warmer weather. Over Southern Boll it was already steamily humid as the sun steadily gained strength.

Just over a month after Suderoth’s mating flight, Tirelle announced that she was expecting again. It meant she’d be on support duty at the Weyr until the danger of spending too much time between had passed.

‘You know what they say about mating flights,’ M’ta winked at D’gar. ‘Reckon there might be a few more women finding out they’re pregnant soon.’

For a moment, D’gar missed what he was implying, then realised M’ta must be referring to his own mother. If she really was, that would be her fifth child. Obviously, M’ta was the father. It was just another example of the complex family relationships that were common in the Weyr. ‘I’d best congratulate her, then. And you, for that matter.’ He wondered how many weyrbrats M’ta had sired in his time.

‘She’s not absolutely sure yet. Best wait until she is. She’ll probably want to tell you herself anyway.’

‘What’s that?’ T’garrin asked. ‘Anyone else pregnant that we know?’

‘Why? Are you taking bets on how many women fell pregnant from that flight?’

‘No, but it’s not a bad idea for next time. M’rell said something about Rina earlier.’

‘Really?’ M’rell hadn’t come into the dining hall much lately, except for the occasional meal when R’feem insisted the whole Wing ate together.

‘She’s been sick. A lot. Reckon that’s a sign if ever there was.’ T’garrin turned back to his fish pie, grimacing. ‘I will be so glad when they get through that load of salt fish from the stores.’

‘Maybe that’s what’s turned Rina’s stomach,’ M’ta joked.

D’gar caught up with S’brin later. He’d chosen to sit at the green end of the table that night. ‘Have you heard? Apparently M’rell’s going to be a dad.’

‘So that’s why we’ve not seen much of him. Best grab a skin of wine and go and congratulate the man.’

Would you ask Toth if we could visit his rider? he relayed to Herebeth.

Toth says he’d like that. He has some news to tell you.

‘Best not spoil the surprise by letting on we already know,’ D’gar warned S’brin.

They flew up on Herebeth. M’rell waited for them by the curtain. ‘Sorry I didn’t get down to dinner.’

‘You missed Tirelle’s announcement.’

‘What was that?’

‘She’s expecting again,’ S’brin said.

‘Ah.’ M’rell gestured to his slightly battered couch. ‘Sit down, both of you. I wanted to tell you before it became common knowledge, but so’s Rina.’

D’gar felt S’brin nudge him, so he put on a suitably surprised expression. ‘That’s great. Just what she wanted.’

‘I know.’ He didn’t sound exactly overjoyed though.

‘You need a drink,’ S’brin offered the wine skin.

‘Er, thanks.’ M’rell sat down on the other chair. ‘I know I should be happy, but I’m worried about her. She’s been so sick.’

‘It happens sometimes,’ D’gar said. ‘Mum told me she was like that with my older brother. It’ll stop after the first couple of sevendays.’

S’brin found some cups and sniffed them to see if they were clean. Having passed the test, he filled them with wine and handed them round.

‘Rina said that too.’ M’rell gazed into his wine. ‘She’s been pregnant before.’

D’gar didn’t remember her having a baby and she was only the same age as M’rell, so it couldn’t have been that long ago.

‘She lost it, quite early on,’ M’rell explained. ‘The healers said she mightn’t be able to have another one.’

That would be why he’d not noticed her pregnant before. ‘Well, she is now, so that’s good.’

‘Yes, but she’s afraid it will happen again.’

‘She’ll be fine,’ S’brin said. ‘She’s young and healthy. She doesn’t go between.

‘I hope so. I can’t seem to get through to her.’ He sighed.

D’gar thought for a moment. ‘I could get my mum to talk to her. M’ta and she are having a baby as well.’

‘That might be an idea. Some of the women she works with have been scaring her with all sorts of horror stories.’

D’gar supposed it must be similar to the kind of stories wingriders told to weyrlings. It seemed to be a universal tendency for some people to want to frighten others who had less experience. ‘I’ll tell Agarra next time I see her. Where is Rina? Is she fit enough to work?’

M’rell nodded. ‘She mostly feels bad first thing in the morning, or if she eats certain foods. They’ve put her on later shifts for the time being.’

‘You’re making me feel really happy about one thing,’ S’brin said, putting an arm around D’gar. ‘At least my weyrmate isn’t going to get pregnant any time soon. Now, drink up. More drinking, less thinking. Isn’t that your saying?’

M’rell smiled wryly. ‘Used to be. Doesn’t seem quite such good advice as I get older.’

Another sevenday passed. During a Fall over Fort Hold, when high winds and low cloud made visibility poor, two of the dragons in T’ron’s Wing were badly scored, one to the extent that he wouldn’t be flying for a long while, if at all. T’ron himself took a hit on his left arm, although it wasn’t severe. Every Wing had one or two bad injuries from that one, including their own. It was another reminder of how dangerous fighting Thread could be under the wrong kind of conditions.

‘I was so lucky that time,’ S’brin said afterwards. ‘I swear Zemianth can see out of the end of her tail or something, because she spotted a clump I’d totally missed and got us out of there.’

D’gar knew he’d also had some close calls that day. He tried not to think about the incidents too much. Like Zemianth, it had been Herebeth’s good sense that had kept them both intact.

A couple of the Benden riders or their dragons were scored that day. Nothing too serious, but enough to make them stay behind when the rest of the seconded pairs returned to their home Weyr. Two of the Fort riders were similarly stranded at Benden until they healed sufficiently to be allowed to fly between again. The night before the secondments ended, there was a farewell feast in the dining hall, during which T’ron, his left arm in a sling, formally thanked all the riders for their help and said he hoped they had learned something from the experience.

D’gar noticed A’xal matching S’brin drink for drink as the crazy greens celebrated in their own inimitable style. J’rud and Sh’frun were out on the edge of it, sitting with the quieter green and blue riders, heads close together against the background noise.

He went up to the serving table to pick out some cakes and was joined by R’feem.

‘Always a bit sad when they have to go home,’ he said. ‘Still, it’ll be good to have our own riders back again.’

D’gar wavered between a redfruit tart and a slice of cake studded with nuts and dried fruit. ‘Some are going to find it more sad than others,’ he commented, glancing at J’rud.

R’feem nodded. ‘I know. It always happens with one or two of them. You’re a clutchmate of his, so make sure he has some support to get over it.’

‘I’d been thinking about doing that anyway.’

‘I thought I probably didn’t have to tell you, but I like to cover all eventualities.’ He picked out a cake. ‘I also wanted to let you know we’ll be getting a couple of weyrlings soon. I’d like you to look after one of them. Make sure he settles in, knows who everyone is and so forth.’

‘Don't I’grast and N’rir do that?’

‘They’ll be concentrating on integrating them into the Wing flying-wise, but I’m going to have you and A’ren deal with everything on the ground. Good experience for you both. Plus, you’re young enough to remember what it was like the first few sevendays you joined us.’

‘All right.’ D’gar felt proud R’feem had chosen him, although he couldn’t help but wonder if M’rell might feel slighted again. Still, he’d been fine the last few times D’gar had been asked to help out with Wing duties and he had enough on his plate right now with Rina.

The following day was stormy; typical early spring weather at Fort Weyr. Squally showers were followed by blue sky and brilliant sunshine, even a rumble of distant thunder. G’dol had been annoyed that he wasn’t the bronze rider chosen to lead the return, but no one else was particularly surprised. Belongings were packed and fastened to dragons’ riding straps. There’d been some drunken farewells the night before, after the official feast ended and a few of the Fort and Benden riders were nursing hangovers. Morning, Fort time would be mid afternoon in Benden, D’gar knew, so he expected they’d spend the rest of the day re-settling into their own Weyrs before trying to get to sleep at what felt like an unsociably early hour. The returning Fort riders would have a very long day to get through before the sun set over the Weyr. Travelling from the east to the west was always harder on riders, although dragons didn’t seem much affected.

We can sleep whenever we want to,’ Herebeth commented.

I know, you lazy lump. Herebeth had eaten well the previous evening. He was always sluggish the day after a big meal. Shouldn’t have had that wherry after scoffing a whole herdbeast.

I am a growing dragon.

Yes, your belly’s certainly expanding. I’ll have to make your straps longer.

The Benden ‘Wing’ ascended above the Bowl to a smattering of applause. Weyrfolk shielded their eyes to watch them until they finally blinked out and were gone.

Can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of G’dol.’ S’brin said. ‘A’xal’ll be missed though. He was a laugh.’

‘It must feel strange to them, going back just as they’ve settled in here. I wonder how many folk will be wanting transfers?’

‘Hopefully not G’dol.’

‘No, Benden can have him. D’you think he’ll try to impress Zalna with his tales.'

S’brin grinned. ‘You bet he will. I’d like to see the way she deals with him. Falling into a shit pit will seem like an easy day by comparison.’

‘I hope she reminds him of that mishap.’

‘No one here ever let him forget it. Come on, let’s get some klah. Don’t suppose our lot will be back for a while yet.’

D’gar caught sight of his foster sister, waiting outside the kitchen and gazing up into the sky. ‘It won’t be soon enough for Torala.’ They’d taken her over to Benden twice more. It seemed that the lack of contact during the six months had strengthened her relationship with A’ren rather than breaking it up.

‘Some are reunited, some parted.’

That was usually perceptive for S’brin. D’gar noticed he was glancing over toward J’rud. Everything about his posture spoke of dejection. He kicked a stone across the landing ground. ‘Let’s grab J’rud and try to take his mind off it, eh?’

A little while later, J’rud sat, staring morosely into his klah. ‘I knew he’d be going back, but…’ He swirled the klah around the mug. ‘I miss him already.’

‘It just makes things a bit more tricky, you being at different Weyrs. But you can visit on rest days.’ S’brin was trying to be positive.

‘He was happy here. Happier than at Benden.’

‘Did you ever find out why he was picked on?’ D’gar asked. Talking about Sh’frun might help J’rud. He obviously wasn’t going to stop thinking about the man.

‘It was mostly to do with being Holdbred. There were only three of them in the clutch, so they were outnumbered anyway, but the other two Impressed brown and bronze. The weyrbred greens had all grown up together and formed a bit of a clique. He didn’t fit in.’

D’gar could understand that. Sh’frun was shy and quiet. Not knowing how the Weyr worked would have made him even more so, in addition to looking after a growing dragon. ‘He became a lot more confident while he was here.’

‘I know. I hope it’ll work out for him back there.’

‘He could always get a transfer,’ S’brin suggested. ‘You know, if it doesn’t.’

‘Maybe.’

‘It’s not unknown after secondments,’ D’gar offered.

‘We talked about it a few times. But I don’t think he will. I mean, he likes me, but Benden’s his home. And he said it hadn’t been so bad since he joined a Wing, anyway.’

‘Well, you could go there.’ S’brin stated the obvious.

‘I don’t know. All my friends are here.’ He sighed. ‘Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.’

‘You need to get drunk later.’

It was S’brin’s answer to all problems. Well, that and sex. D’gar wasn’t sure if it was right for J’rud.

S’brin was already warming to his idea. ‘We’ll get a couple of skins, invite M’rell over as well. He needs a break from fussing over Rina.’

‘I’m not sure,’ J’rud said.

‘It’ll do you good. Better than moping in your weyr and there’s no Fall until day after tomorrow. I can invite a couple of others, too.’

It sounded as if this was developing into a party. ‘Not too many,’ D’gar cautioned. ‘We just want a few friends getting together for a chat and some drinks…’ He doubted J’rud felt like the sort of rowdy event favoured by the crazy greens. Most of them were still getting over A’xal’s send off the night before, anyway and probably wouldn’t feel up to two nights in a row.

‘And dragon poker,’ S’brin suggested. ’T’garrin’s always up for a game.’

J’rud smiled slightly. ‘So I get to lose my marks as well?’

‘You could do with losing a few. You must have a fair amount stashed away from all those moving jobs.’ S’brin jumped up. ‘Right, settled. I’ll go and see T’garrin now. You can talk to M’rell,’ he instructed D’gar.

‘Looks like I have my orders,’ D’gar said.

‘You don’t have to go to all this trouble for me.’ J’rud sipped at his klah.

‘It’s no bother. What are friends for, anyway?’

The arrival of the Fort riders sent people rushing out to the Bowl to greet returning friends, weyrmates and Wing mates. D’gar heard a few comments along the lines of their dragons looking paler because of all the Benden rain. He supposed the Benden riders would hear much the same, in reverse. Then he went to find his mother to scrounge some food for the get together.

It turned out to be a good evening, as often happened with impromptu events. They’d decided, after some deliberation, to make it a mixed evening. As expected, the women gathered in a huddle to support Rina. Thankfully, she seemed to be feeling better.

‘These last couple of days, the sickness hasn’t been so bad,’ she told D’gar. ‘I reckon I’m getting over that stage.’

D’gar thought she looked a little paler than usual, but if she hadn’t been able to keep much food down, you’d expect that. He tried to imagine how it would be to feel like he did before Fall all the time and gained a new respect for what women went through.

T’garrin had gathered a few riders around for a game, shuffling his cards.

‘Are you in?’ S’brin called over to D’gar.

‘Might as well.’ He didn’t want to lose too much as he needed to keep enough marks to buy a couple of new shirts. Y’ler, a green rider in ‘F’ Wing made decent clothing and he needed something fancy to wear at Gathers and Hatchings. His shoulders and chest had broadened over the past Turn and some of his old favourites felt a little too tight these days.

He didn’t expect to do well; not against some of those who were in the game. He’d already learned that in addition to T’garrin, N’dru and Gr’thol were good players. S’brin was too, until he’d had a few too many cups of wine. M’rell was on a similar level to himself, although worse at bluffing.

By the fifth round, he’d lost more that he’d managed to win. One more, he told himself as T’garrin dealt. When he picked up his cards to check, he had a shock. It wasn’t a bad hand, but it reminded him all too well of what had happened the last time he played cards along with M’rell. He’d got three of a kind, but they were elevens. The death hand, again. It had probably only been coincidence that K’torl had died after he’d drawn them the last time, but he didn’t want to worry S’brin, or any of his wingmates by letting them see such a bad omen.

‘I’m out,’ he said. ‘Lost enough already.’ He stepped away from the table. S’brin cast him an odd glance, but carried on playing.

He topped up his wine and grabbed a sweet roll. It didn’t mean anything bad, he told himself. Yes, but you thought that before and look what happened. He’d be extra careful next Fall, just in case.

Why do you worry? Herebeth picked up on his state of mind, as he always did.

Something silly, he reassured his dragon. He joined another group of riders; J’rud, G’reden and M’ta, who were chatting.

M’ta looked up. ‘Lost all your marks already?’

‘No, but I didn’t want to.’

‘We were just discussing when the Weyrleader’s going to take some more riders. His Wing’s under strength right now and he likes to keep it full.’

That must be one of the reasons R’feem wanted to get some more weyrlings trained up. D’gar was beginning to appreciate how much their Wingleader planned ahead. ‘I heard A’ren’s name mentioned a few months back.’

‘Yes, he’s one of them,’ M’ta said. ‘Probably our friend N’dru as well.’

‘What about Gr’thol?’ G’reden asked. ‘He’s probably the best all round green we have. Sorry,’ he said quickly to J’rud.

‘Don’t be. I know I’m lacking in experience compared to those you’ve mentioned.’

‘We’re all going to be short, soon.’ D’gar told them the calculations he’d done at Turn’s End. ‘There just aren’t enough weyrlings to keep us going for the next couple of Turns,’ he finished.

‘Our old Weyrlingmaster told us something about that, as I recall,’ M’ta said. ‘I know it was a while ago since I was a weyrling, but I can still remember a lot of his advice. He said that when you get near the end of a Pass, and the queens stop laying so often, or having such large clutches, it’s often the case that one or two Wings get disbanded and the riders split up among what’s left. Better to have fewer Wings at full strength, he said.’

D’gar mulled that over. He didn’t like the idea that ‘C’ Wing might cease to exist. By and large, he got on with everyone in it and R’feem was a good Wingleader. ‘How do they pick which Wings stay and which ones go?’

M’ta shrugged. ‘We never got into it that deeply, but I’d imagine it would be the ones with the heaviest losses.

‘Or the ones whose Wingleaders the Weyrleader doesn’t get on with,’ G’reden put in. ‘Z’los had better watch out if that’s the case.’

‘Still, it’s not something we need to worry about right now and it won’t be an issue for a few Turns yet,’ M’ta said. ‘But what you said reminded me.’

M’rell left the poker game after the next round. He came over, shaking his head. ‘That lot are too good for the likes of me.’

‘That’s my feeling, too,’ D’gar said. ‘How much has S’brin lost so far?’

‘He’s not doing too badly. You left a bit suddenly, though.’

‘I had to stop myself carrying on. I’d set myself a figure I could afford to lose and I realised I’d already gone over it.’ D’gar reckoned that was a convincing enough lie.

The evening seemed to go well and fulfilled its purpose of distracting J’rud. D’gar tried to put the cards to the back of his mind and was more or less successful through the following day, but when he woke up on the morning they were due to fight Thread over Southern Boll, the sense of foreboding came back all too clearly.

‘Should be an easy one today,’ S’brin commented, as they got ready. S’brin, of course, had eaten a substantial breakfast, while D’gar felt slightly more queasy than usual.

‘Don’t say that,’ he snapped.

‘Why not. Half of it’s over the sea…’

‘Only around a third,’ he corrected.

‘You know what I mean.’ S’brin paused in pulling on his wherhide trousers. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Fine.’

‘Only if it was me behaving like that, you’d have a right to ask if I was feeling proddy. Anything on your mind?’

‘No.’ S’brin knew him too well. Having him go into Fall worried wasn’t what he’d intended. ‘Well, yes. I don’t like it when you get complacent. Not just you; anyone. That’s when accidents happen.’

‘Sure. I’ll be careful. Zemianth will look after us.’

The Wing formed up in the Bowl. Everyone made their usual preparations and performed their pre-Fall rituals. S’brin and he had recently started to fasten each other’s jackets. It was their final chance to wish each other well and to have a last kiss.

‘Take care,’ D’gar said.

‘Fly safely,’ S’brin returned.

Neither of them said, ‘see you later’. That was supposed to be bad luck.

Herebeth crunched his supply of firestone. You are worried, he said.

You know me. I’m always like this before we set off.

You are more worried than usual.

He could never conceal anything from his dragon. I have a bad feeling about today, he said. I’m afraid one of my friends might be hurt. Or his dragon.

Dragons and riders know what they are doing. The weather is fine. Herebeth projected confidence, making it hard for D’gar to stay in that fatalistic frame of mind.

They took off in the usual formation. Today, ‘C’ Wing had been assigned to protect the fishing fleet, then to cover the lower level, just above the Queens’ Wing, as Thread progressed over land.

It was warm above Southern Boll as they emerged from between. The clammy humidity hit D’gar in the face; all the more so after the freezing blackness. Beneath them, the sea sparkled and the sails of the fishing boats swelled in a light breeze as they waited for leading edge to approach. R’feem had divided the Wing into two for their first duty. D’gar was in I’grast’s half, whereas S’brin was over with N’rir.

Tiriorth tells us to go lower. We are protecting the group of ships with the red sails.

They circled, waiting. D’gar watched the sky, until the pristine blue became sullied with the silver-grey of oncoming Thread; like a rain shower falling from a clear sky. Before it reached them, he saw Thread hissing into the water below as the boats sailed to meet it. Fish seemed to have the same innate sense as dragons regarding when Thread was about to fall. They rose to meet it almost immediately, feeding off the drowned filaments.

Herebeth began to flame and D’gar stopped thinking about anything except keeping his assigned area clear. They tracked the fishing vessels below. This work called for the utmost accuracy. Not one single Thread could be allowed to reach the fragile, wooden ships. The men cast their nets, not even bothering to glance above them, having absolute trust in the dragonriders for their safety.

They fought over the sea for a good while before leading edge was across the cliffs and Thread began to come down over pasture. I’grast ordered them to re-form and take their positions on the lower level, joining the other Wing that had already begun to clear what came through from above.

Firestone, please, Herebeth said. D’gar picked a decent sized chunk and tossed it into his jaws, followed by two smaller pieces. Char blew past them as they took out two twisted strands. To their right, Jekkoth turned on a wingtip to catch another piece, while on the left, P’goll fed Taronenth more firestone.

Far off, blue Lath blinked between, then returned to the same position after a few seconds, R’xel brushing away strands of frozen Thread. The pair carried on fighting, so neither had been seriously hurt. D’gar knew all too well how R’xel’s heart would be pounding at having had such a close escape.

They’d been in the air for at least two hours, judging by the quantity of firestone Herebeth had consumed and the amount his shoulders had begun to ache, when there was a death. D’gar scanned the sky, trying to see if anyone in the Wing had vanished. All seemed to be in their usual positions, but he couldn’t see everyone in one quick glance. He forced himself to concentrate on the here and now. Worrying about others was a sure-fire way to put yourself in danger.

Today, Thread fell mostly in solitary strands and fairly evenly. It meant more changes of direction; more time spent chasing to be sure no small pieces escaped. The Queens’ Wing flew at an angle beneath them; the last line of defence before the ground. One or two of their riders would also be spotting for Thread burrows and for signals from the ground crews. Thankfully, ‘C’ Wing weren’t on cleanup today.

At last, trailing edge passed over and the Wing gradually moved back into their customary V formation before jumping between back to the Weyr.

Almost as soon as they emerged, D’gar checked everyone was safe. He didn’t expect to see Zemianth; having been in the first shift, S’brin would have returned to the Weyr, remaining on standby.

Do we know who died? he asked Herebeth, hoping not to hear any familiar names.

Tinith has gone.

D’gar wasn’t familiar with the dragon’s name.

He was one of Suderoth’s, Herebeth supplied.

D’gar felt a rush of relief, then hated himself for that. Maybe he hadn’t known the pair, but they were still dead. He was just glad those stupid cards had been proved wrong.

They landed at the Weyr. Riders began removing their dragon's straps and dumping the remaining firestone sacks in a pile for the weyrlings to clear up.

‘See, I said it would be an easy one.’ S’brin had made his way over. ‘You’re such a worry-wherry sometimes.’

‘I know.’ D’gar stepped aside as Herebeth hopped a few steps before becoming airborne; a sure sign that he was tired. Normally, he just sprang straight into the air. Dragons of all colours were heading for the lake, eager to be the first to drink and wash their hides clean.

‘Let’s get to the baths.’

D’gar followed him and soon the rest of ‘C’ Wing joined them in the usual rowdy celebration at having successfully made it through another Fall. Afterwards, they made their way to the dining hall for klah and the post-Fall meeting. There wasn’t much food left out, so D’gar ducked into the kitchen. Agarra wasn’t at her usual station, so he grabbed a couple of meat rolls from the serving trolley.

‘Where’s my mum?’ he asked Leanna. He knew she should have been on shift.

‘She went to the infirmary.’ Leanna must have seen his face fall. ‘Oh, don’t worry, love. She’s fine herself. She’s there with Rina.’

That was almost as bad. D’gar hurried back to their table. M’rell had stretched out lazily along the bench, leaning against T’garrin.

There was no easy way to tell him. ‘Rina’s in the infirmary.’

M’rell jumped up, spilling his klah in the process. ‘What happened?’

‘I don’t know. My mum’s gone with her.’

‘Come on, then.’

They ran across the Bowl. All the way, D’gar tried to think of the best case scenarios. ‘Maybe she just overdid things, eh?’

‘Maybe.’ M’rell’s mouth was set in a grim line. ‘Shards! I hope she’s all right. She said she felt a bit funny this morning.’

They pushed through the queue of riders waiting for minor scores to be treated and into the infirmary. It wasn’t as grim and bloody as D’gar had seen it before, but it still wasn’t a pleasant place to be so soon after the end of Fall.

M’rell found a healer. ‘My girlfriend, Rina. Where is she?’

The healer pointed toward a side cavern. ‘Just in there.’ M’rell was in too much of a hurry to notice, but D’gar had time to see the expression of sympathy on the woman’s face. He remembered B’rol, lying on that pallet and followed M’rell more slowly, hoping that he was wrong.

Rina lay on a bed. Her face was deathly pale, her eyes barely open. Agarra kneeled beside her, clasping her hand.

‘What happened?’ M’rell asked, looking at Agarra.

‘Take her hand,’ Agarra said softly. ‘Talk to her and let her know you’re here. She’s been asking for you, over and over.’ As M’rell took her place, Agarra rose and guided D’gar to one side. ‘Let them have some time alone,’ she said to him.

‘Has she lost the baby?’ he asked quietly.

Agarra shook her head swiftly, taking him further away. ‘They called me to the laundry after she collapsed. I’ve seen this before and it’s not good.’

‘What is it, then?’

‘Her friend said she’d complained of feeling dizzy all morning. Then she had a pain just here.’ Agarra’s hand indicated the left side of her belly. ‘The healer thinks the same as I do. Something’s ruptured in her womb.’

D’gar was horrified. ‘Will she be all right?’ he asked instinctively, while knowing already what the answer would be.’

‘She’s bleeding inside. We can't stop it.’

D’gar looked over to the bed. M’rell was brushing Rina’s hair back from her brow, his face full of concern. ‘I’m sorry,’ he kept saying. ‘I’m so sorry.’

Rina raised one of her hands to his face. It looked as if even such a small movement cost her a massive amount of effort. ‘Don’t be,’ she said, her voice barely more than a whisper. ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ She seemed to be struggling to say more. ‘I… I love you.’

‘I love you, too.’ M’rell leaned closer, placing a kiss on her cheek.

She smiled briefly, then her hand dropped onto her chest and lay still.

‘Rina.’ M’rell grabbed at the hand. ‘Rina!’ He looked around frantically at Agarra. ‘Do something! Fetch a healer!’

D’gar knew it was too late. Even as his mother ducked through the archway, he moved in to console M’rell. ‘She’s gone.’

‘No. She can’t be.’ M’rell shook her gently, as if trying to wake her. ‘Rina. It’s me, M’rell.’

Agarra returned with an older woman. They all watched helplessly for a minute until M’rell finally realised that she was beyond all calling back. He stood slowly, wiping his face with the back of his hand.

‘She waited for you, love,’ Agarra said gently. ‘She wanted to say goodbye.’

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

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Chapter Comments

Elevens again, If I were D'gar I would not sit for a game again, poor M'rell losing Rina like that, that she was able to wait to say goodby speaks volumes.

The statistics alone were chilling and certainly foreboding as well!! 

Another great chapter!!

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Yes, it's foreboding on a number of levels. Medical technology on Pern at this point is somewhere around the Middle Ages; although the healers are aware of certain conditions from old records, they can’t perform surgery or other interventions. A lot of people will inevitably die from conditions their ancestors would have considered treatable. Rina most likely died from an ectopic pregnancy.

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Timothy M.

Posted (edited)

M'rell doesn't have much success, professionally or personally. He's a good guy and friends to D'gar, so I feel sorry for him, even if his lack of promotion is partly due to his own actions.

I hope J'rud's friend from Benden decides to transfer, otherwise they really will be separated after the Pass ends.

Edited by Timothy M.
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D'gar needs to stop playing that damn card game.  Sad about Rina but at least she was able to hold on until M'rell got to say goodbye.  S'brin's lack of concern and attitude that everything is just going to be okay is starting wear on me...

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2 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

I hope J'rud's friend from Benden decides to transfer, otherwise they really will be separated after the Pass ends.

Of course, they don't know that. Bet a lot of people had friends or family st Benden, or vice versa and ended up never seeing them again.

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1 hour ago, centexhairysub said:

 

D'gar needs to stop playing that damn card game.  Sad about Rina but at least she was able to hold on until M'rell got to say goodbye.  S'brin's lack of concern and attitude that everything is just going to be okay is starting wear on me...

 

Don't think he'll play it again for a while!

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A lot of people hang onto the little bit of life they can until they can say goodbye to that one person.  My mom did that.  She hung on until I could get there.  She passed within 30 minutes.  (We knew it was coming. I had spent weeks with her in the spring at her initial diagnosis of terminal cancer in hospice until they dismissed her for improving so much!  I then had to go home to start the school year, only to be called back on day 2.  We talked so much, we left nothing unsaid.)

M’rell really loved Rina and will need his friends over the next sevendays.

It always did amaze me about the low level of technology and technical knowledge the society had devolved to, considering their origin as colonists traveling from another planet.  However, they did come as agronomists seeking a simpler life, free from the demands and problems a technological society presented.  They carried enough to help get themselves started for about the first 25-30 years, but then, the plan was always to get back to an almost medieval-type lifestyle, I think.  The stories of the early days (Dragonsdawn, etc) were extremely helpful in establishing how their society’s hierarchy came to be.  Anne and Todd did an amazing job setting up this world, the culture and its history.

The foreshadowing for S’brin is getting very heavy.  I don’t remember D’Gar being this intuitive in the other stories!  I was almost surprised when S’brin made it through this Fall.

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A lot of people hang onto the little bit of life they can until they can say goodbye to that one person.  My mom did that.  She hung on until I could get there.  She passed within 30 minutes.  (We knew it was coming. I had spent weeks with her in the spring at her initial diagnosis of terminal cancer in hospice until they dismissed her for improving so much!  I then had to go home to start the school year, only to be called back on day 2.  We talked so much, we left nothing unsaid.)

M’rell really loved Rina and will need his friends over the next sevendays.

It always did amaze me about the low level of technology and technical knowledge the society had devolved to, considering their origin as colonists traveling from another planet.  However, they did come as agronomists seeking a simpler life, free from the demands and problems a technological society presented.  They carried enough to help get themselves started for about the first 25-30 years, but then, the plan was always to get back to an almost medieval-type lifestyle, I think.  The stories of the early days (Dragonsdawn, etc) were extremely helpful in establishing how their society’s hierarchy came to be.  Anne and Todd did an amazing job setting up this world, the culture and its history.

The foreshadowing for S’brin is getting very heavy.  I don’t remember D’Gar being this intuitive in the other stories!  I was almost surprised when S’brin made it through this Fall.

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On 6/11/2021 at 1:19 PM, Clancy59 said:

It always did amaze me about the low level of technology and technical knowledge the society had devolved to, considering their origin as colonists traveling from another planet.  However, they did come as agronomists seeking a simpler life, free from the demands and problems a technological society presented.

The depredations of Threadfall and a number of nasty plagues made them lose more than they'd envisaged, I think, plus the necessity of moving from the Southern to the Northern continent. I think they also intended to have a much more equal society than the semi-feudal one they ended up with, which was the point of the Charter. Modern medicine is one of those things we all take for granted and theirs would have been far more advanced than where we are currently. i bet they wouldn't even have been able to imagine how grim it would become once they'd lost a certain degree of technology. i read a very good fanfic where a third generation surgeon on Pern was becoming increasingly frustrated at having to ration out treatments as the high tech equipment gradually failed and couldn't be replaced.

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Yes, they lost a lot due to Thread.  But I still think they were planning for a basic non-tech (electrical/computerized) society after getting themselves established.  They did bring enough for a couple of generations, but never planned for things like the sleds and lasers (the devices they used to dig out the first 2 Weyrs, Fort and most of Bender) to last forever.  Medicine, on the other hand,  they didn’t want that to go backwards as far as it did.  Their feeling was that the high tech was what got their original society in trouble to begin with.  They were willing to utilize it to get to Pern, but were only planning on going so far.

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