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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 - 34. Turning Seasons

D'gar gets some new responsibilities with the Wing.

‘So D’gar ended up in the infirmary for nearly two days and Z’los had to lend us riders,’ S’brin continued. He was making sure Zalna got all the details about the aftermath of the flight. ‘Then, best of all, one of ‘em liked it so much in “C” Wing, he asked for a transfer.’

‘Bet Z’los wasn’t pleased about that,’ she said.

‘He didn’t want to grant it but the Weyrleader stepped in and told him he had to. There’s no love lost between those two.’ S’brin laughed. ‘That showed him.’

It was a warm afternoon in Southern Boll; not as hot or humid as it would have been earlier in the season, but still pleasant. The dragons swam while their riders relaxed on the pale sands.

‘I love this place,’ Zalna sighed, leaning back against a rock. ‘It’s so good to get some sun on our hide.’

‘What did I tell you about Benden.’ S’brin stretched out next to J’rud, while M’rell paddled around in a rock pool nearby. ‘It’s winter for nine months of the Turn.

‘It’s not that bad,’ she said. ‘Just not as sunny as I’d like it to be. Spending a day here is a real treat.’

D’gar noticed she’d changed. She’d become gaunt after K’torl died, but now she was starting to fill out again. She looked comfortable and relaxed.

‘Think the sunshine might get Gemalth going?’ It was a typical comment for S’brin.

‘I don’t know. She’s showed no signs yet. Morna - that’s the Weyrwoman - keeps telling me not to worry about it. It’s normal for the end of the Pass, she keeps saying. But Luduth’s risen again…’

‘And only laid sixteen eggs,’ D’gar pointed out. ‘That’s a lot less than she did last time.’

Zalna sat up. ‘I’m worried it’s me. That I’m inhibiting her natural instincts.’

‘I’m sure that isn’t the case,’ J’rud said. ‘There’ve been times I’ve dreaded Zurinth rising for one reason or another, but it doesn’t stop her. Gemalth will do it in her own good time.’

‘I hope so. I feel as if Benden got a bad deal in me.’

‘Has anyone said that?’ D’gar asked.

‘No, but they’re too polite. Morna is anyhow. She’s the opposite of Mardra.’

‘Then don’t worry about it.’ Easily said. If he was in her position, he’d probably feel the same.

‘I’m too hot,’ J’rud scrambled to his feet. ‘I’m off for a swim. Anyone going to join me?’

‘I will,’ S’brin grinned. ‘See if I can drown you this time.’

They raced down to the shore, splashing each other vigorously as S’brin tackled J’rud and pulled him beneath the small waves.

‘So, you and S’brin…?’ Zalna asked.

‘We aren’t sharing a weyr any more. Sometimes I think S’brin and I get on better when we aren’t with each other all the time. And as you can see, there’s no animosity between him and J’rud at all.’ Their shouts and shrieks rose up from the water. S’brin was climbing up Zemianth’s side while J’rud tried to dislodge him.

‘And what about M’rell?’ Zalna glanced across to the rock pool, where M’rell was now floating on his back.

‘He’s in his own weyr again.’ He wasn’t quite the same, though. The old M’rell had always been the first to join in with a laugh or a joke. Now he was far quieter and more serious.

‘He won’t get over it as quickly as you might think. It’s taken me a while. I still think about K’torl, you know.’

D’gar remembered what N’rir had said. ‘The first Turn’s the worst, according to our Wingsecond. You keep getting reminders of what you were doing this time last Turn with that person.’

‘He’s right. But even after that, some things still take you back. For example, I can never go to Fort without looking up at his weyr. And every time, it tugs at my heart to see Ganath’s not there.’

D’gar couldn’t really imagine what that would feel like. He’d lost friends and clutchmates, but no one really close. Some of the things he’d seen would always remain imprinted on his memory; B’rol, dying in the infirmary or that brown dragon eaten by Thread in the Bowl. If anything like that happened to S’brin or J’rud or M’rell… He shook his head to disperse the images. Some things didn’t bear thinking about.

‘That’s why I’m worried about Gemalth,’ she said, now they were alone. ‘I don’t want to be with anyone else. I could just about cope with a flight, because now I know how powerful dragonlust can be, there’s no way you couldn’t go along with it. But outside of that…’ she shrugged. ‘As you can imagine, all of the Benden bronze riders have tried to charm me in their unique ways, but none hold any appeal.’

D’gar didn’t want to feed her the usual platitudes. She was an intelligent woman and knew her own feelings. Maybe in time, she’d find that spark with someone else. Maybe she wouldn’t. ‘If it happens, it happens,’ he said at last.

‘I’m glad you understand.’

‘I try.’

‘You and S’brin, though. I never thought I’d see the day you split up.’

‘We haven’t, exactly. I mean, it’s complicated. J’rud and I share his weyr because Herebeth and Zurinth get on well and it suits us. Sometimes I stay over with S’brin, so he can keep the double weyr. We had a serious talk and decided as we’d never really been apart since we got the dragons, except for a sevenday or so last Turn, we should give it a try and see how it goes.’

‘Do you miss him?’

‘Sort of. Living with J’rud is easier, I have to say. Less drama all round.’

‘And how does J’rud feel about it all?’

‘He says he’s happy.’ Getting to know J’rud better had made D’gar realise although they had a lot in common, J’rud didn’t seem to suffer from his own tendency to over-analyse and over-think a situation. He’d weigh up his actions, make a decision and have no regrets about it.

Zalna gazed out to sea. ‘When I was younger, I thought I had life all sorted out. As I get older, I realise how little I knew about anything. You’re probably doing the right thing, for now anyway.’

‘I hope so.’

‘I heard about your trip to Telgar,’ she said, changing the subject.

Of course, the Benden riders would have talked about it. ‘Things needed changing. We shook them up a bit. It would have happened sooner or later, anyway.’ It seemed a long time ago now. They’d been back at Fort for longer than they’d been away.

‘We’ve had a few changes at Benden more recently. One of the Wings has been split up and the riders redistributed among the others.’

‘They’d already done that to two Wings at Telgar.’

‘And it will happen at Fort sooner or later. You don’t have enough weyrlings coming up any more, do you?’

‘No.’ The calculations he’d made were proving uncannily accurate. ‘Most of the Wings are a couple of riders under strength.’

‘It’s what happens near the end of a Pass. They’re reckoning on three more Turns at the most, two if we’re lucky.’

‘I know Passes aren’t always exactly fifty Turns long.’

‘All the signs are pointing toward this one being normal length or maybe even short. Queens not rising, fewer eggs in a clutch. You know what I’m hoping?’

D’gar shook his head.

‘That none of Gemalth’s next clutch will ever have to risk their lives up there, like we have. They’ll probably think it’s boring they missed all the action, but boring is also safe.’

‘Three more Turns,’ D’gar mused.

‘Maybe only two.’

‘What will we do, afterwards?’

Zalna smiled. ‘Enjoy the rest of our long, boring lives. Have plenty of days like these.’

They returned to Fort in the early evening. A misty dusk had settled around the Weyr and a distinct nip in the air proved the seasons were turning. Zalna went straight back to Benden, preferring to avoid Mardra. J’rud and D’gar dropped off sandy drying sheets in the laundry on the way to the dining hall. As they were on the way out, a girl stopped them. She looked to be in her late teens, slight and pretty with masses of dark, curly hair intricately braided back from her face. ‘Um, you’re both in ‘C’ Wing, aren’t you?’

‘Yes…’ D’gar replied hesitantly, wondering what she wanted.

‘There’s this young bronze rider I’ve seen at your table…’

‘P’ton,’ J’rud confirmed. ‘He joined us a few months ago.’

‘I’d really like to get to know him, but I’m not sure what to say. Every time he brings anything in here he looks at me, but he never speaks, so I don’t know if he likes me. If he even likes girls at all…’

Ah. So she wanted an introduction. ‘He’s a bit shy with new people,’ D’gar said. ‘You want me to mention to him you’re interested.’

‘Well…’

‘You need to be a bit more subtle than that,’ J’rud said. ‘She won’t want him to think she’s throwing herself at him.’

The girl smiled. ‘That’s it exactly. I’m Rallia, by the way.’

They introduced themselves. ‘Leave it to me,’ J’rud assured her. ‘Romances to order are my specialty.’

‘If you could, I’d be so grateful.’ She looked a bit happier as she left them.

‘Right,’ J’rud said on their way to the dining hall. ‘Let’s see what we can do.’

‘I’m not a total failure when it comes to romantic arrangements,’ D’gar said. ‘I got K’torl and Zalna together.’

‘And totally missed the way I felt about you for Turns. People have to make it so obvious to you.’

D’gar pondered over this as they fetched klah. Could it be that all sorts of people found him attractive? It didn’t seem likely. He was nothing special, after all. Plenty of riders were taller, or more muscular or simply better looking. Or they had a talent for singing, dancing, or making people laugh.

J’rud sat in the usual place. P’ton had already arrived and was talking though some Threadfall moves with I’grast; bronze tactics. He’d grown a lot more confident, so long as he knew someone well. D’gar knew - because he’d said - that some of the more brash greens scared him.

When they broke off, J’rud spoke. ‘We had a good day out at the beach today. You should come along next time.’

I’grast grinned. ‘I never thought you felt that way about me, J’rud.’

‘Not you,’ J’rud replied easily. ‘I was talking to our newest bronze rider, here.’

‘Don’t think he flies that way. Do you, lad?’

‘Er… well…’ P’ton looked flustered.

‘It’s not for me. I’ve got D’gar.’

‘And S’brin too, from what I’ve heard.’

‘I’grast!’ D’gar said, pretending outrage. ‘You’re as gossipy as a green sometimes. What goes on in our weyr is our business.’

P’ton looked even more flustered, although he’d been through the barracks and must know what went on around the weyr.

‘Anyway, ‘J’rud said, glaring at I’grast. ‘We’re going to arrange another day out soon, and were thinking of inviting a few of the younger riders and some of the support staff. You know, kitchen and laundry workers.’

P’ton definitely brightened up at that.

‘It’s a good way for them to meet up with riders, especially as some of them are a bit shy, too.’

I’grast snorted, but said nothing.

‘So, would you be interested?’ J’rud asked.

‘Er, yes. Charinth loves the sea.’

‘Fine. After the next Fall, then. D’gar, get your mum to do one of her fancy picnics. Couple of skins of wine and we’ll have a fine day out.’

‘And that’s how you do it,’ he said later, when they were back in the weyr. ‘Didn’t you see how his face lit up?’

‘But how does he know she’ll be there?’

‘He’s hoping for it, so he’ll assume she will be. They’ll have a drop to drink, frolic in the sea, get a look at each other’s assets… perfect. Now, who else shall I invite from the Lower Caverns?’

‘Best ask my mum. She knows who’s already paired up and who’s on the look out.’

‘Good thinking.’ J’rud flopped down on the bed. ‘Hey, have you noticed how much happier R’feem’s been lately?’

‘He’s seemed more… relaxed.’ Come to think of it, he’d even cracked the odd joke now and then.

‘That’s because he’s started seeing one of the healers.’

‘Male or female?’ You couldn’t be sure with R’feem.

‘Tall red-headed woman.’

That sounded like the one who’d treated him; the one who’d been very disapproving of Z’los. ‘Good for him, then. Where did you find all that out?’

‘Green gossip, naturally. H’kail saw them walking around the lake, arm in arm.’

‘I’ve got some news you won’t have heard yet.’ D’gar had wondered if he should mention it to J’rud, but J’rud was good at keeping a secret when it was about something important.

‘Tell me then. Or are you going to leave me in suspense?’

‘R’feem’s arranging for me and M’rell to start Wingsecond training with N’rir.’

‘That’s brilliant.’ J’rud sat up and hugged him. ‘You deserve it. Not so sure about M’rell, though.’

‘He said he wants all the browns trained up. Sh’than’s already done it when he was with “F” Wing.’ He had no doubt R’feem was thinking ahead and preparing for the eventuality one or more of his Wingseconds might be out of action. N’rir had managed to ride Fall with his broken toes strapped up, but if he hadn’t, it would have caused a major problem with A’ren gone.

‘You’d be a great Wingsecond.’

‘If I ever get the chance to prove it.’ In some ways, he didn’t want the chance. Stepping up to the Wingsecond position would mean something had happened to I’grast, N’rir, or their dragons.

‘So, what does the training involve?’

‘Not sure yet. I imagine we’ll learn about a lot of the admin work and organisation; scheduling firestone deliveries and suchlike. As far as riding Fall goes, it’s not vastly different than being a wingrider, except that you’re keeping an eye on all the dragons in your section, swapping out greens and blues and training those who’ve just joined on top of fighting Thread.’

‘Sounds complicated.’

‘Well, yes, but remember how it was when we first joined the Wing? Everything seemed so confusing. Now it’s become second nature to us as much as our dragons. Moving up will be the same. It’ll feel really difficult until you get used to it.’

‘Think M’rell will cope?’

‘Actually, I reckon it’ll do him good. It’ll give him something else to think about.’

‘I suppose.’

D’gar knew J’rud didn’t rate M’rell but that might be unconscious bias due to what had happened with S’brin. Toth was a sturdy dragon who fought well and neither of them had suffered any major injuries, which had to count for something.

‘So, when’s it starting?’

‘Soon, he said. He only mentioned it the other day and asked me not to tell anyone for now. So I’d appreciate it if you don’t either.’

‘Of course I won’t. I know the difference between the kind of gossip that begs to be passed on and the kind that needs to be kept quiet. But I’m still happy for you.’

The following morning, after breakfast, N’rir leaned over the table. ‘You and M’rell can come up to my weyr this morning, so’s we can start off on your training.’

‘Right.’ He’d not expected it to happen so quickly. ‘Should we bring anything?’

‘Just yourselves, for now. We won’t need the dragons today, either.’

After he’d got up from the table, M’rell groaned. ‘That means it’ll be all theory and admin. Boring.’

‘But useful. You want to get on, don’t you?’

‘Suppose so.’

‘Then be glad we’ve got the opportunity.’ That sounded a bit harsh but it was too late to take it back.

M’rell shrugged. ‘When are we ever going to become Wingseconds?’

‘You never know.’ He didn’t want to point out the obvious. ‘Anyway, think of the advantages. Better weyr…’ He caught himself before he went on to say wearing Wingsecond’s knots was more likely to attract a mate. M’rell wasn’t ready to move on yet.

When Herebeth dropped him off, he went through to find N’rir sitting at his desk. D’gar was slightly surprised at how tidy and well-organised his weyr was. Many riders who didn’t have a weyrmate lived in a bit of a mess, in his experience. When two people shared at least there was a good chance one of them was less tolerant of dirt and debris.

‘I’ll just get Jalolth to remind Toth.’ His eyes unfocussed as he talked to his dragon. ‘Do you think M’rell’s got the enthusiasm for this?’

‘Honestly? No. Not right now. But maybe it’ll help him think about something other than Rina.’

‘Let’s hope so.’ He checked the hide lying open on his desk. ‘You’ve been with us for two Turns now.’

It seemed like much longer. Sometimes, D’gar felt as if he’d been fighting Thread for all of his life. How must it be for riders like N’rir or I’grast? ‘It’s not long, I know,’ he said, remembering the Wingleader’s dismissive comments at Telgar.

‘Long enough,’ he said. ‘You’ve got through the most dangerous Turns. You’re still young enough to learn. Plus, you’ve showed leadership skills a number of times. It’s good enough for R’feem and it’s good enough for me.’

They both heard the scrape of dragon’s talons on the ledge. ‘Toth’s arrived,’ N’rir said.

In a few moments M’rell came through.

‘Have a seat, lads. I’m going to run through what some people like to think of as the boring stuff this morning. But you’ll be putting it into practice next Fall, so pay attention.’

They went through the procedures for ordering firestone. As a wingrider, D’gar was used to passing on his requests to whichever Wingsecond was in charge of his section. He knew that the Wingseconds’ dragons then passed on the information to whoever was running the firestone dump that Fall; most often the Weyrlingmaster or an experienced weyrling. Needless to say, N’teren had never allowed him to take that role, although G’tash had done it a few times.

‘So, next Fall, I’m putting you both in charge of your own mini-section. Whichever blue and green you’re working with will send their requests to your dragons, then you send them on to me. Then I’ll relay the lot back to the dump.’

‘That’s a lot of information to keep in your head when you’re fighting as well.’ D’gar suddenly realised that N’rir and Jalolth would be remembering anywhere between ten and fifteen orders and gained a whole new level of respect for him.

‘I got in a real mess when I first started, then I came up with a trick to help. I think of, say, a green dragon, then add the number of sacks to the picture. Jalolth likes it that way as well. When you pass on the order I’ll want the colour, name and quantity, in that order.’

‘So, brown Herebeth, three sacks?’ he confirmed.

‘Exactly. Now our other routine function is to arrange swap outs. We usually figure that out beforehand and, to be honest, it doesn’t change much each Fall. Unless a dragon or rider’s been injured, or we’re missing a green because she’s due to rise. But while we’re up there, Jalolth checks in with all of the dragons periodically to see if they’re tiring. And of course, if one gets hurt mid-Fall, we have to bring another pair up sooner. You both know who you usually fight with, right?’

D’gar nodded.

‘So I’m going to let you arrange your own swap overs. For a green it’s roughly half way through, unless it’s very windy so they get tired quicker. Blues can do longer, or even a whole Fall if it’s a short one, so you need to get your dragons to ask them.’

‘What if they don’t want to swap?’ D’gar asked. He knew some of the blue pairs, particularly, liked to try and prove they could fight as long as a brown.

‘Then pass it on to me and I’ll order them to stand down. Leaving tired dragons in the air causes injuries, or worse. One of the reasons we don’t have so many mishaps in our Wing is we don’t let ‘em overtax themselves.’

‘Sounds fairly straightforward,’ M’rell said.

N’rir smiled at him. ‘Give it a go and see if you’re saying that afterwards. Now tomorrow we’re over the southern part of Ruatha and northern Fort Hold. It shouldn’t be an overlong Fall. Let’s hope the weather’s not too bad either. This time of the Turn can be very changeable. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, ask for help. I don’t expect you to be perfect the first time out. No one is.’

R’feem announced the training would be starting at dinner. ‘I hope you’ll all give D’gar and M’rell the same co-operation as you would to I’grast or N’rir. If I hear anyone isn’t, there’ll be trouble.’

‘And that told them,’ J’rud whispered, his breath tickling D’gar’s neck. ‘How are we going to take your mind off Fall tomorrow? Perhaps we should invite S’brin over?’

D’gar smiled. ’Go on, then.’

Sated and tired out, D’gar slept well, although that didn’t stop him waking early with the same churning in his guts the prospect of Threadfall always brought. The knowledge he had extra responsibilities today increased his nausea. S’brin and J’rud slept on, taking up most of the bed. He threw up, washed out his mouth from the skin of water they always kept in the weyr, then pushed J’rud over to get back into bed. Pushing S’brin when he was deeply asleep was pointless; he was as immovable as the Star Stones.

Herebeth was already awake, watching dawn bringing the Weyr to life. We fight today, he said, with anticipation. For a dragon, the idea of searing Thread was exhilarating. Because they lived in the now, they didn’t fear injury or death in the way their riders did.

And today, we learn to be Wingseconds. You will need to get the firestone orders from the other dragons who fight with us.

I can do that, Herebeth said. You may need to remind me nearer the time.

Of course. D’gar sat up and watched his two lovers sleeping. S’brin always looked so much younger when he slept; the hard lines of his face relaxed. J’rud frowned a little and his eyelids twitched. Maybe he was dreaming? Two, or maybe three more Turns of this and they’d all be safe. Well, relatively so. He was sure S’brin would find some kind of daredevil activity to enliven his days. In Fall, your priority was always to look after your dragon and yourself, but you couldn’t help worrying about the other folk you cared for. ‘Stay safe, both of you,’ he said, very softly, so as not to wake them.

Fall was due to start around mid-morning. T’ron always sent a couple of riders out early, both for up-to-date weather reports and in case anything was amiss in the Holds. During his time helping out in the archives, D’gar had seen records from earlier in the Pass about strange inconsistencies in Fall, where the normal pattern was disrupted for a few sevendays, or even months. No one had ever fathomed the reasons, but it taught dragonriders not to be complacent. N’teren had mentioned that was why the Wings always assembled early and got to the meeting point a good half hour before leading edge was predicted to strike.

This morning, they’d barely begun to feed firestone to the dragons when the watch dragon bugled an alarm as a green burst out from between into a steep descent.

Herebeth, like all the other dragons, picked up her warning. Kayrilth says Thread is almost upon Ruatha. Leading edge currently falls over rock but soon it will hit pasture.

All around, riders began scrambling into action, hooking firestone bags onto straps, fastening fighting jackets and abandoning their usual pre-Fall rituals.

Piroth says we must stay calm. He is waiting for instruction from the Weyrleader.

D’gar held out another couple of lumps of firestone to Herebeth. The more his dragon could digest before they had to flame, the better. He didn’t imagine any of the Wing’s dragons would have been near fully stoked up yet.

I will be able to flame, Herebeth assured him. But you will have to feed me more when we are airborne.

He checked over everything before climbing aboard and fixing his fighting straps in place. Most of ‘C’ Wing looked as if they were ready to go. As he watched, ‘A’ Wing, with T’ron and Fidranth in the lead position, took off in slightly untidy fashion, climbed aloft steeply, then winked out between. ‘G’ Wing followed shortly after.

We go next, Herebeth said, his muscles tensing as he prepared to leap. D’gar saw R’feem raise his arm and they were away. He already knew from the pre-Fall meeting they’d been assigned to the top level today. They went between lower than normal and burst out into a clear Ruathan morning, with silver-grey Thread already falling and the two Wings who’d just arrived flaming in earnest. Piroth called them into fighting formation and the battle began.

Threadfighting was never totally predictable, no matter how well planned. D’gar’s first impression after graduating to a Wing had been just how chaotic it felt by comparison to the neat drawings of fighting formations they’d been shown in the training room. He’d soon realised in practice it was never quite so well defined and many Wingleaders used slightly different configurations to the classic ones. But today was much more of a free-for-all than he’d ever seen before. T’ron’s main concern was to protect as much of the land below as he could with a limited number of Wings and dragons who couldn’t be expected to flame as often or as strongly as under normal circumstances. He reshuffled the usual order, reducing the usual three levels down to two, allowing them to cover a wider area.

Firestone please. Herebeth’s demands for more of the rock seemed almost continuous. By the time the other Wings joined them, it was almost like a normal Fall, except for the size and quantity of the Thread tangles.

Zurinth says she cannot flame all that Thread alone. Herebeth was right. D’gar watched Zurinth trying to destroy a clump of Thread, but her flame ran out before it was more than two thirds seared, leaving the remains to fall towards the ground. Other greens were clearly having similar problems. Was it because they hadn’t been able to digest sufficient firestone before starting to fight?

The clumps are too large, Herebeth said. Should I help her?

Wait. Check with Jalolth. If Herebeth had to flame in conjunction with Zurinth, their own section of sky would be unprotected some of the time. He didn’t see how they could get around the problem, but maybe someone with more experience would know.

Jalolth tells me they are bringing up the reserve greens. He will explain to them what to do.

Sure enough, Hollath arrived just a short while later and teamed up with Zurinth, using both their flames to destroy the oversized clumps. All over the sky, D’gar saw more green dragons wink in to assist their wing mates. Herebeth and blue Marth were able to breathe out enough flame in one burst without needing assistance.

He’d already gone down nearly half a sack, having had to use his top-up supplies to feed Herebeth what he’d normally have ingested on the ground. He wondered if, due to the circumstances he was still expected to co-ordinate firestone for his fighting section and decided he probably should. After all, they were training for any eventuality and he would have to learn to cope. Ask Zurinth, Hollath and Marth how much firestone they’ve used so far and how many bags they have left.

Herebeth replied shortly. Zurinth has used half a sack so far. She has one left. Hollath has almost two bags as she had more time to chew before she left the Weyr. Marth has just one bag remaining.

We are going to need early deliveries. He imagined the weyrlings at the dump, filling bags like crazy. Everyone was using a greater quantity than usual to deal with the bigger tangles.

For a while, he had no time to think as Herebeth manoeuvred to take out one clump falling to their right, closely followed by another to the left, which they had to chase down a little way to finish off. Somewhere, a dragon screamed and he caught sight of a blue tumbling through the sky in the distance, before disappearing. Shortly after came the ripple of a death.

Tell Jalolth green Zurinth will need two bags, green Hollath one, blue Marth two, brown Herebeth two.

I pass it on.

Maybe he should have called for more? But with this unusual Thread pattern the dragons needed to be light and manoeuvrable. Loading them up with too much firestone in clumsy sacks wouldn’t be a good idea. They’d probably need two re-stocks, even though it wasn’t a long Fall. And what was going to happen about swap outs? All of their greens were in the air now and although they were working in pairs, they might still get tired. D’gar’s mind whirled as he glanced over to N’rir and Jalolth, who seemed to be working as steadily as ever. How could he cope with all of this? What if he made a wrong decision and someone was hurt because of it?

N’rir caught his eye and signalled he’d got the message. D’gar thought of asking about the swap outs, then decided not to right now. He’d always been the annoying one who asked questions too often. It wasn’t going to become a problem for a while and he didn’t need to know right away. He concentrated on the job at hand. Herebeth’s second stomach was producing plenty of gas by now and his flame was steady and measured. Even among the danger and stink of Fall, D’gar had time to admire the precise way Herebeth dealt with each new tangle of Thread, while he scanned the sky ahead and assessed which ones they’d need to tackle next, while also keeping the other dragons of their section in view. The dragons talked with each other frequently so they knew who was going for what and all of these had worked together for long enough it was fairly seamless.

He’d got half way through his second sack before a weyrling appeared. Herebeth made him wait while he finished searing a tangle, then called him in. The lad threw the sacks accurately and D’gar tossed back the empty one then gave him the thank you sign. Within a couple more minutes all of ‘his’ pairs had received their first deliveries. There was a pause in the action as the terrain below turned from cultivated land to high pastures, then to rocky peaks where Thread could do no damage. It was the barrier range between Ruatha and Fort Holds and the ideal time to ask N’rir about swap outs.

Jalolth says he has it in hand, Herebeth replied shortly. Any tired greens will be replaced by the reserve blues, but they may have to come up again after a rest. We do not have much longer to fight, he says.

That was a good point. Thread had fallen early, therefore it should finish early, too. Ask Zurinth and Hollath if they are tired, please.

Both say they can fly longer. It is less effort fighting as a pair than alone, Zurinth tells me.

Well, that was an unexpected benefit. Relay that back please.

They were barely over the marshlands of Fort Hold, where wooly herd beasts grazed, when the disturbance of another death shuddered through him. He didn’t ask Herebeth who it had been these days. They’d find out when they got back and even if it happened to be a wingmate or a friend, there was nothing that could be done anyway.

Abruptly Thread died away. Trailing edge should have finished over the next mountain range; a good half hour of flying distance ahead. That meant it must have started further out, too. D’gar gave thanks it must have fallen harmlessly over rock or sea. Imagine the damage had it begun over farmland!

They made their way back to the Weyr. After he’d dismounted, N’rir came over. ‘You did well today. Kept your head, even though it didn’t go to plan.’

‘Did I ask too many questions?’ He had to know.

‘Best to ask than to make a cock-up out of ignorance. Like I said, you did fine.’

Other Wings were returning. Herebeth looked up as ‘E’ Wing descended, making D’gar do the same. In the Wingleader’s position, instead of bronze Helorth, he saw a brown dragon.

Helorth is injured, Herebeth said. He returned early. And bronze Lurenth did not return at all.

Lurenth. Wasn’t he from ‘B’ Wing? Wingsecond, if D’gar remembered rightly, although he couldn’t recall the rider’s name. It had been bad, then, for an experienced Wingleader’s dragon to be hurt and an equally experienced Wingsecond to die.

And all of our friends?

No one from ‘C’ Wing is lost. Lilith’s rider is scored, but Lilith is not concerned about him.

D’gar felt relieved. They’d been fortunate again when others hadn’t been. Yet wasn’t there some old ballad about everyone’s luck eventually running out? When might it be their turn?

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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Chapter Comments

19 minutes ago, Clancy59 said:

 

All this foreshadowing!  I kept expecting it to be S’brin’s turn!

 

Still a little way to go yet!

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I guess because we know that S'brin won't make it through the turn it is getting harder to stay with him, I keep distancing my feelings for him.

D'gar is truly talented and handles many things better than most. 

Really well done.

 

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31 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

D'gar is truly talented and handles many things better than most. 

He's really beginning to develop the good sense and leadership skills he demonstrates in 'Gone Away, Gone Ahead'.

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Perhaps if M'rell had paid more attention to wingsecond training, some of their future animosity could have been avoided.

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4 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

Still a little way to go yet!

One can only be selfish and hope for many more chapters!!!

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I've been told the definition of mixed emotions, is watching a bus full of lawyers go over a cliff, only to realize there were a couple of empty seats...

So...I am conflicted, I want more chapters and agree with @centexhairysub when it comes to S'brin.

This chapter was spot on and looking forward to more!!!

Hungry Dinner GIF

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8 hours ago, CincyKris said:

Perhaps if M'rell had paid more attention to wingsecond training, some of their future animosity could have been avoided.

Could some of the future animosity be due to some subconscious jealousy, especially on the part of M’rell?

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9 hours ago, CincyKris said:

Perhaps if M'rell had paid more attention to wingsecond training, some of their future animosity could have been avoided.

They're both being given the same opportunity, even though R'feem has his doubts about M'rell. In all fairness, he's still grieving after Rina. From M'rell's point of view the resentment has to be partly from the fact that  he Impressed from the previous clutch, also joined the wing before D'gar, so he thinks he has seniority.

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9 hours ago, drsawzall said:

I've been told the definition of mixed emotions, is watching a bus full of lawyers go over a cliff, only to realize there were a couple of empty seats...

So...I am conflicted, I want more chapters and agree with @centexhairysub when it comes to S'brin.

This chapter was spot on and looking forward to more!!!

Hungry Dinner GIF

There are a few more chapters yet (I can never tell exactly how many gas sometimes they get too long and I need to split them into two). Well over two thirds of the story is done  at this point.

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37 minutes ago, Clancy59 said:

Could some of the future animosity be due to some subconscious jealousy, especially on the part of M’rell?

Oh yes, definitely. He sees D'gar as having had unfair advantages.

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I'm glad both R'feem and N'rir can see the good leadership qualities that D'ram has.

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On 8/13/2021 at 4:11 AM, Mawgrim said:

Oh yes, definitely. He sees D'gar as having had unfair advantages.

I was thinking more in terms of jealously of S’brin.  We know he is jealous of his leadership abilities!

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