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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 - 43. The End of the Pass

D'gar tries to come to terms with life after S'brin

Warning: suicidal thoughts

D’gar stared at the Moreta tapestry, without really seeing it. It was strange to just be sitting and not thinking. He felt as if he’d left some crucial part of himself between, along with S’brin.

Herebeth had returned a long while ago. D’gar knew he should check the fighting straps and hang them up, but he couldn’t be bothered. It must still be early evening. Almost dinner time. He should go down and face everyone. He didn’t want to.

Beyond the drawn curtain, Herebeth stirred at the unmistakeable sound of a dragon landing on the ledge.

Who is it? he asked.

Piroth and his rider. They ask me if you are all right. Are you all right?

I’ve been better. Oh well, he’d best get this over with. He stood up and went to the curtain, drawing it back. ‘Come in,’ he said.

‘Thanks.’ R’feem followed him into the weyr.

Even if he wanted to sit in semi-darkness, it wasn’t right that anyone else should have to put up with it, especially his Wingleader. He uncovered the nearest basket so the soft yellow-green light made the shadows pull back from at least one side of the cave. The other seemed blacker still by contrast. Almost as black as cold between.

‘Please. Sit down.’ D’gar offered him the comfortable chair and sat on the edge of the bed himself. The bed he’d never share with S’brin again.

R’feem sighed heavily. ‘What can I say…’

‘You can’t. Don’t try.’ That sounded abrupt. Rude, even. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean…’ His voice cracked. R’feem had been through this himself. He must know how it felt.

‘It’s all right.’ R’feem looked at the floor, scrubbing the stone with the toe of his boot. ‘You know how it was today. The Weyr lost too many good pairs.’

A reminder there, that it wasn’t just him. There’d be plenty of women crying and riders getting drunk tonight. He’d had a couple of lucky escapes himself. It could so easily have been the other way about; S’brin sitting here mourning, with himself and Herebeth gone between forever. ‘Suppose I’m the lucky one,’ he said bitterly.

‘You should come down to the dining hall. The Wing are waiting for you.’

He’d neglected his duties. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said again.

‘You might want to put some clean clothes on first.’

He looked down at himself. Still covered in char and dried blood, stinking of firestone and sweat and death. ‘Yes, of course.’ That would mean going into the baths. Facing people. The kind, well-meaning platitudes.

As if reading his mind, R’feem said. ‘You can use my pool, if you prefer.’

‘Thanks. That would be good.’ It didn’t feel as if he was speaking. It felt like someone else, a long way off was forming words and sending them out from his mouth.

‘Grab yourself some clothes, then.’

Of course. D’gar went over to the niche where he kept his stuff, trying not to look at the one next to it, piled with clothes S’brin would never need again.

On the way out, Herebeth nuzzled him gently. You are sad. That makes me sad, too.

I know. I’m sorry. He seemed to be apologising to everyone.

R’feem helped him to climb up on Piroth, who was considerably larger than he was accustomed to and they glided off to the Wingleader’s weyr.

‘I’ll get some klah. Don’t take too long.’ R’feem left him alone. Being told what to do helped. Hot water helped, although he still felt cold deep inside. He dried himself and dressed quickly, then joined R’feem, who was sitting at his desk, sipping klah.

‘One there for you.’ He gestured towards the table. ‘Feel better?’

‘A little.’

‘No two people react the same way, but I’ve been in the same place you are now. When Piroth told me Mayarth was gone my world ripped apart. A’til and I had been together almost nine Turns. We knew either of us could be killed at any time, but we’d pretended it couldn’t happen to us. Other people, yes. I don’t think any of us could function if we didn’t tell ourselves these little lies.’

D’gar let R’feem’s words wash over him as he cupped the klah mug between his hands. He had nothing to add.

‘Work kept me going. The responsibility of leading the Wing. It stopped me thinking about him all the time. Putting on a brave face in front of other people is one way to fend off grief.’

Zalna had said something similar, he recalled.

‘Everyone in the Wing will understand what you’re going through. S’brin had a lot of friends. So do you. Don’t shut them out.’

It was all good advice. ‘Better not keep them waiting any longer, I suppose.’

‘Good lad.’ R’feem patted him on the shoulder. ‘Do you want to hand out the drinks or shall I ask I’grast?’

‘I can do it.’

Piroth ferried them across to the dining hall. R’feem’s hand remained on his shoulder, steadying him as he walked inside. Only this morning, he, S’brin and J’rud had strolled in together for breakfast. As usual, D’gar hadn’t eaten much. His stomach reminded him of how long ago that had been.

Today’s Fall had been a bad one. Drinks were being handed around at quite a few of the tables. On some, it looked as if they might be on their third or fourth round already.

J’rud sat in his usual place. His eyes were red as if he had been crying for some time. I’grast sat next to him, offering comfort as D’gar should have been doing. He began to feel guilty. He’d gone off to brood in his weyr, while leaving J’rud to deal with it alone.

As R’feem left him, taking his seat, M’rell stood, hugging him briefly. ‘Ready to do this?’

‘Sure.’

M’rell had already set out the cups. Two flasks of spirit sat next to them. As he filled them, the buzz of conversation around the table stilled. He felt as if every pair of eyes, particularly from the green end of the table, were on him. Put on a brave face, he thought, recalling R’feem’s words. Do your duty. He handed the cups around, not spilling a drop, then went back to his own seat as R’feem stood.

‘Today, we lost two pairs, both of whom were well-loved and popular. R’xel and blue Lath, whose aerobatic moves sometimes left me wondering how a dragon of his build could pull a turn nearly as tight as a green. Fearless and daring were words often used to describe them both and it’s a fitting epitaph.’

As he spoke, D’gar heard the sound of low sobbing from further down the table. Although B’thun and R’xel had never been weyrmates, they’d spent more time with each other than anyone else and it was clear B’thun was feeling the loss.

R’feem continued. ’S’brin and green Zemianth were another pair who gave their all in every fight. Zemianth’s slight build made her an ultra manoeuvrable dragon and S’brin was a reliable and experienced part of our green team. He was a popular rider, leaving behind many friends and two weyrmates, D’gar and J’rud.’

D’gar noticed tears running down J’rud’s face, evoking sympathy from many of the other riders. He wished he could do the same, but his emotions seemed inaccessible right now.

‘So, let us drink now to their memory.’ R’feem lifted his cup. ‘R’xel and Lath. S’brin and Zemianth.’

D’gar drank, along with everyone else, then went around refilling cups on his side of the table. The crazy greens had clustered around B’thun. ‘I’m sorry,’ he offered. Those words again.

A few of them looked up at him. Someone - he thought it was V’chal - muttered, ‘Can’t even spare a tear.’

He retreated back to his end of the table. He’d get no sympathy from them. Not that he wanted it anyway. I’grast beckoned him over, indicating he should sit next to J’rud. He did, slightly awkwardly, picking up the flask to refill J’rud’s and his own cups. Maybe getting drunk together was the best consolation he could offer?

J’rud turned to him. ‘Why didn’t you wait?’

‘I wasn’t thinking, right then.’ He just stopped himself from saying ‘sorry’ again.

‘I loved him too, you know.’

‘Hey, D’gar!’ M’rell called over from the other side of the table. ‘Remember that time S’brin threw a table across the dining hall?’

He nodded. All of the stories would be rolled out now. Weyrling troubles, midden duty, mating flights.

‘Wasn’t that because some older rider tried it on with you?’

‘Sort of.’ How unfair it was H’sal still lived, while S’brin didn’t. He didn’t want those reminders right now.

M’rell obviously gathered the same from his short reply and went back to talking with M’ta and G’reden.

‘Go and join them, if you want,’ J’rud said.

‘I don’t.’ He owed it to J’rud to try and explain. ‘When Herebeth told me Zemianth had gone back to the Weyr, I supposed they’d been wounded badly enough to need treatment. Then when we got back, it all happened so fast.’ Images came to mind. I’grast running to meet him, blood on his hands and clothing. ‘I’grast tried to stop me from seeing him.’

On the other side of J’rud, I’grast nodded. ‘It wasn’t pretty.’

‘When you remember S’brin, your last memories will be of him still alive. Waking this morning. Going off for breakfast. A last kiss before we got ready for Fall. Mine won’t be like that.’

‘I wanted to say goodbye.’

‘The dead can’t hear.’ It sounded cold, put like that. But how could it have helped J’rud to see what was left of S’brin? To know how he’d died, bleeding out on the floor?

‘After we’d landed, I asked Zurinth to bespeak Zemianth. She told me Zemianth had gone between.’ J’rud seemed lost in his own memories. ‘I got over there as fast as I could. I called you.’

‘I heard, but I didn’t want to talk. Just wanted to get it over with.’

‘You were away a long time.’

D’gar definitely didn’t want to tell J’rud how tempted he’d been to stay between. ‘After we’d… dropped him, I wanted to fly for a while, on our own. Then we went back to our weyr.’

‘I tried to get in later but Herebeth told me you didn’t want to see anyone.’

Thoughtful dragon. ‘Sorry,’ he said, yet again.

‘He always protects you.’ J’rud stared at the table, at his empty cup.

D’gar refilled it. He didn’t know what to say to J’rud. All around the table, people were talking about R’xel and S’brin, but he didn’t even feel like contributing to that. Every step through the usual traditions reminded him S’brin was dead. He’d rather retreat to his own mind, where he could imagine him still alive somewhere, merely absent from this gathering. He knew hard reality would hit at some point, but the longer he could put it off, the better.

All through the evening, he carried on drinking, feeling the barrier between himself and the world strengthen as he retreated into his own thoughts. J’rud fetched him some food, which he ate without really tasting it. At one point, Agarra came through from the kitchens. Even she was crying as she comforted him.

‘I remember the first time I saw you two together. I knew it was the start of something. The way he looked at you…’

Almost ten Turns ago, that had been, before they were even old enough to be candidates. Sharing bubbly pies in one of the kitchen storerooms, after Fall one day. That first kiss. The way S’brin had made him feel. Yet even those memories seemed distant, like a dream slipping away after you wake. He was glad when she left him.

‘Are you all right,’ J’rud asked.

‘Sort of. Just thinking. I might go back up to my weyr in a while.’

‘Do you… do you want me to come with you?’

Although J’rud had kept his own weyr on, he didn’t use it very often. He didn’t enjoy being on his own. Yet sharing the bed with someone else would only serve as a reminder of the third person who used to be there as well. ‘I’d rather be alone,’ he said truthfully. He was done with telling polite lies.

‘Fine.’ J’rud’s tone made a mismatch with his words.

Herebeth, he called. His dragon had been slumbering. I need a lift back to the weyr.

He didn’t feel as drunk as he should, walking out into the darkened Bowl. Cloud covered the stars and moon. Herebeth’s hide looked almost black, rather than dark brown. His eyes whirled pale yellow, revealing his concern. You are still sad.

D’gar wondered if the dragon had already forgotten the events of earlier in the day. Do you remember Zemianth? he asked.

She has gone between.

So, he did. I am sad because her rider is also between.

I know. We took him to join her. But that is past, now.

He climbed aboard. Everything is past, he said.

The weyr felt even emptier than it had earlier. He almost fell over the fighting straps he’d left on the floor. Should really hang them up, check them and clean them for next time. He’d do it tomorrow.

He undressed quickly and climbed into bed. He felt exhausted, but his mind didn’t let him sink into sleep. Those dreadful images kept coming back out of the darkness. He tried to think of something else, but that only worked when he was concentrating hard. As soon as he relaxed again, they returned to torment him. Turning from one side to the other only served to remind him he was alone in the bed. There was a faint trace of S’brin’s smell on the furs and pillows. It was both comforting through familiarity and yet another reminder he had gone.

D’gar felt the coldness of between close around his heart. This time last night, S’brin had been alive, breathing and warm. Now, he’d never be twenty-four. They wouldn’t celebrate the end of the Pass together. At Turn’s End, his name would be recited by T’ron, yet another of Fort Weyr’s dead. They’d never make love again in this bed. They’d never get ready for Fall together, doing up each other’s jackets. Everything had changed.

All of a sudden, the emotion he had suppressed all day began to stir. He felt tears well up. There was no one to see his sorrow and no one but Herebeth to feel it. Here, in the weyr which had once been full of life, he mourned for S’brin, for the irretrievable past and for everything he had lost.

The next day dawned. Grey light filtered beneath the curtain. He’d have to go through the motions of living; breakfast in the dining hall, a meeting with R’feem and M’rell. Getting ready for the next Fall. Speaking to people; J’rud especially. He didn’t much look forward to any of it, but as R’feem had said, throwing yourself into work was one way to dull the ache.

A few people tried to engage him in conversation. He was polite, but left them in no doubt he’d prefer his own company. Even J’rud went to sit with the other greens; something he’d rarely do by choice.

M’rell moved around the table to sit next to him. ‘Don’t worry about that lot. If you don’t want to talk, then don’t talk. There were times after Rina died I didn’t wan’t to see anyone. I knew they’d just dredge it up all over again even though they meant well. You want some company, or just someone to drink with, you know where I am.’

He appreciated the offer. At least M’rell had an inkling of how he felt.

After M’rell had moved on, I’grast came over and began to tuck into his breakfast. ‘Make sure you have something to eat,’ he said.

‘I don’t feel hungry.’

‘Then eat anyway. Your dragon won’t appreciate you fainting in the middle of Fall because you’ve starved yourself.’

Good, practical advice. D’gar went and fetched a couple of meat rolls and a hard boiled egg. He’d never been one to eat much for breakfast anyway. He chewed slowly.

‘That’s better.’ I’grast finished his plateful and burped. ‘I never had a weyrmate,’ he said, somewhat unexpectedly.

D’gar remembered the speculation about I’grast when they’d first joined the Wing. Some of them had thought he had a thing with N’rir. Apart from mating flights, he didn’t seem to get involved with anyone. Or maybe he had and just kept it very discreet? ‘Really?’ he asked, being polite again.

‘Saw other people lose folks; the state of my mother after my dad died. Relationships caused grief, that was how I saw it. Not that I didn’t get plenty of sex. I was still a young man with needs. But it was easy enough to pick up someone in the baths and nip up to a weyr fo a couple of hours. No commitment, same as a mating flight.’

Not so different from some of the crazy greens, or how M’rell had decided to live his life. And, of course, perfectly acceptable within the Weyr. ‘So you never fell in love?’

‘There were a couple of times when I could have done, just didn’t let it go that far. Best friend I ever had was N’rir, but he wasn’t interested in me like that. Only mating flight partner I really cared about was S’brin and he was taken.’

‘Were you…? Were you there when he died?’ It was something he’d wondered about.

I’grast nodded. ‘There were healers all around him. But I kept on holding his hand. Don’t suppose he even knew I was there.’

‘Let’s hope he did.’ D’gar took a drink of klah to banish the lump in his throat. He wiped away a tear.

‘And cry if you need to.’ I’grast got up to return his empty plate. ‘No one will think any the worse of you. In fact, they’ll approve.’

‘I know. I heard some comments last night. Sorry, but I don’t cry on demand just so people think better of me. Grief still exists, even if you don’t go around bawling your eyes out.’

The day passed; the first day without S’brin, he labelled it in his mind. He went to the meeting, then down to the feeding grounds with Herebeth. He cleaned and inspected Herebeth’s straps; a necessary task and something to pass the time. Occasionally, Herebeth broke in to point out something happening in the Bowl; children getting told off for playing ball too close to the washing lines or a green looking like she was almost ready to rise. His dragon wasn’t normally one for inconsequential chatter, but D’gar appreciated he was doing his best to make him feel less lonely. He wondered if J’rud might come and see him.

I can ask Zurinth, Herebeth offered.

No, I’d rather they dropped in of their own accord. He didn’t want J’rud to feel obliged, or anything. It was probably best for them to both grieve in their own way for a couple of days. Or at least until after the next Fall.

This time, when he tried to sleep, the images came back, worse than before. The only way he had any respite from them was to leave the bed and go and curl up next to Herebeth. Which reminded him, in turn, of the time S’brin had chucked him out and they’d taken shelter in that empty weyr. Everything seemed to bring up memories. Sleep overtook him eventually, although it was patchy. He’d dreamed, he knew, but could only remember fragments. Perhaps that was a good thing?

A lot of the riders went out the following day; the last rest day before the next Fall. D’gar spent the afternoon by the lake, where the weyrlings were pleased to see their friend Herebeth. While they played in the water, he sat on the shore, remembering all the happy times he and S’brin had here. Birthdays, picnics, or just relaxing together and enjoying the sun back when they’d been weyrlings themselves and unable to leave the Weyr.

G’ren made his way across. ‘You don’t mind me being here?’ he asked. Evidently Agarra had warned him D’gar might not appreciate company.

‘No, sit down.’

‘I was really sorry to hear about S’brin. He was fun.’

‘Yeah. I was just remembering some of the times we had.’ He sighed. ‘I’m not the only one who’s lost someone they love to Thread. I won’t be the last, either.’

‘Everyone’s saying it will end soon.’

‘Everyone’s hoping it will. Might still claim a few more lives before it does.’

G’ren watched his dragon diving under the water. ‘I don’t want him to get hurt. Or me. Am I a coward, do you think?’

‘No, just sensible. You’re both inexperienced. The way Thread’s been falling this past few months, it would be the worst time for new pairs to start in the Wings, or on deliveries for that matter.’

‘But we’ll never have the chance to fight. Paizarth says it’s what he was hatched to do.’

‘All dragons think like that. It’s how they are.’ Even Herebeth was looking forward to fighting again. Although D’gar didn’t mind either. They’d flame all of the foul stuff they could. And if, as the riders said, there was a clump of Thread with their name on it, would that really be much of a loss? Get hit, go between and this time, stay there. He imagined M’rell passing around the cups, R’feem saying nice things about him. The thought was strangely comforting.

G’ren must have noticed him drifting off. ‘Well, I’ll leave you to it. I’ll tell mum we’ve spoken, all right?’

D’gar nodded and went back to his memories. The world seemed much brighter there. No one else disturbed him, which was how he liked it.

The next time he had to face people was at dinner, but even there, he was left alone. He realised that just two days on, S’brin’s death was old news for everyone else. He’d acted the same when other riders in the Wing had died; you took part in the customary celebration of their lives, then moved on.

B’thun still looked unhappy and less well-groomed than usual, he noticed. J’rud smiled a lot less than he did normally and wasn’t telling any jokes, but he still sat at the green end of the table.

M’rell offered support without pressing his company on D’gar.

Just before he left, R’feem reminded everyone Fall was due early tomorrow and he’d be having the Wing meeting during breakfast. That would mean an even earlier start for M’rell and D’gar, to attend the pre-Fall briefing. Oddly, he didn’t mind. He didn’t expect to get much sleep, so might as well be ready early. He slept on the dragon’s couch again, snuggling next to Herebeth. Although days were still warm, the nights were starting to become cold.

He woke early, as dawn brought grey light to the Bowl. He didn’t feel at all sick and wondered why.

You are not worried about what might happen, Herebeth informed him. You are thinking as we do, of the moment, not what we will be doing later.

He was right. D’gar’s worry had always been not just for Herebeth and himself, but for S’brin and Zemianth too. Now they were beyond worry and he didn’t much care what happened to him.

He was ready to go long before Piroth bespoke Herebeth. Other dragons glided across to their own Wingleader’s meetings. A few riders were already making their way to the dining hall. Outside the infirmary, the same preparations as for every Fall had begun.

He went inside to find klah and sweet rolls on the table and R’feem sitting in his usual chair. ‘How are you this morning?’ he asked.

‘Fine.’

‘Ready to do your usual job?’

‘Of course.’ Who else would do it if he didn’t feel up to it? It wasn’t as if there was an abundance of spare Wingseconds.

‘Good.’

Another dragon landed on the ledge and a few moments later M’rell walked in. ‘Have I missed much?’

‘No, just about to start. Help yourself to klah.’

D’gar picked up a sweet roll and took a bite. M’rell and R’feem looked at him strangely. Not really surprising when he usually only had a small portion of porridge in the dining hall.

‘Right. Weather reports show good visibility over the Weavercrafthall today and light winds from the south east. Looks as if it will stay that way, too. We’re on sweep and lookout for leading edge. I’m putting M’ta and T’choll on the latter as they’re experienced. Of course, we may not have much of a Fall at all this time, but until we’re up there we won’t know that for sure.’

D’gar hoped they did. ‘P’goll and N’dru on sweep?’ he suggested.

R’feem nodded. ‘Good choice. I suggest we start in normal formation until we have a better idea what we’re in for. Top level today, so we’ll know fairly soon.’

They talked through the plans, then left together for the dining hall, where R’feem conveyed the same information to the rest of the Wing. Then he turned to D’gar and said quietly, ‘Are you sure you’ll manage today?’

‘Just doing as you suggested. Concentrating on work. Putting on a brave face.’ It felt as if he was two different people; one who grieved by night and let himself become lost in memories, the other as he was now; the controlled Wingsecond, thinking only about his duties in the coming Fall.

As he put the fighting straps on Herebeth, it suddenly hit him the last time he’d done this, S’brin had been getting Zemianth ready next to him. He felt choked. It brought back the moment he’d first realised S’brin was dead. He fumbled with a buckle and had to lean against Herebeth’s shoulder for a moment to recover.

Don’t fall apart, he told himself. We have a job to do. Other pairs are relying on us.

Herebeth nudged him. I will make sure we are safe.

Safe. That was the last thing he cared about. Recovering his equilibrium, he finished his checks, then pulled on his wherhide gear. Another reminder. There was no S’brin to fasten his jacket, give him a kiss and offer suggestions as to what they’d be doing later, after Fall.

Down in the Bowl, he followed the usual routine while Herebeth chewed firestone. He spoke to a couple of the riders concerning position changes. It still felt as if he wasn’t really there. Probably not a great way to be when you were about to fight Thread. Still, he was confident he’d be able to cope and not put anyone else in danger.

They took off with the rest of the Wing. He couldn’t help himself from glancing over to the far side, seeing Tenelath flying in Zemianth’s usual place. Another reminder. When Piroth gave them the coordinates and Herebeth took them between, D’gar thought of those cold bodies, floating forever. Then as they emerged into the humid heat of Southern Boll, forced himself to concentrate on the task in hand.

Leading edge is in sight. Herebeth reported back as usual.

Thread glittered with a dangerous beauty in the sunlight, coming closer. Let’s get it. D’gar’s section engaged with the writhing segments. Today it fell in long, single strands and intermittently. There wasn’t really enough of it to flame as often as he wished, to feel the satisfaction as Herebeth charred it to ash. He started to become angry. He wanted to kill the stuff and it wasn’t even obliging him by falling in a reliable manner. Herebeth picked up on his emotions, as any dragon would. They went after pieces he should have rightfully left for others who were closer, although the riders seemed to understand his mood and let their dragons back off.

Toth’s rider says we need to slow down. He fears I will become tired and make a mistake. Herebeth sounded almost affronted at the suggestion. I am not tired.

Neither am I. In fact, he felt more alive - more like his old self - than at any other time since S’brin had died. Each piece seared from silver-grey to black char was one more that couldn’t do any harm. They cut a swathe through the sparse Thread, rejoicing when it occasionally fell more thickly.

No one used much firestone, although he sent orders for a few bags, just in case. The green dragons had plenty of time to recover from each burst of activity. Why couldn’t it have been like this last time; more like he assumed the Games would be than a real fight? It was as if the Red Star mocked his loss, taking so many lives one time, then sparing them the next.

Every time more Thread fell, Herebeth went for it with ruthless efficiency. D’gar felt almost regretful when at last trailing edge passed by and the skies became clear again.

Back at the Weyr, everyone was in high spirits. There had been no deaths and only a few minor injuries. In the baths, D’gar listened to the conversation. A lot of riders felt this must surely be the last one, for so little Thread to have fallen over the four hour period.

‘What were you thinking today?’ M’rell floated closer.

‘What do you mean?’ D’gar felt pleasantly achy and tired. Maybe he’d sleep tonight, unplagued by dreams.

‘You and Herebeth are usually so careful. Today you were flying like a crazy green, just doing it on a bigger dragon.’

Maybe he was right. ‘I enjoyed it. My dragon did. Where’s the harm?’

‘If you carry on like that you’ll do yourself - or him - some damage.’

D’gar shrugged. ‘It might be our last chance to flame Thread, if everyone’s right.’

‘Then keep yourself safe. That’s what most of us are trying to do.’

For answer, D’gar ducked under the water and swam away from him. Since when was M’rell so proper? He’d made a good few risky moves in his time, even teased D’gar for being too cautious.

At their post-Fall meeting, R’feem didn’t comment on how he’d fought, so D’gar took that as tacit approval. Perhaps he’d acted in much the same way after A’til died? Next Fall, he’d show them.

Next Fall, however, didn’t happen. The Wings assembled as usual, only to wait in vain for leading edge. T’ron instructed ‘B’ Wing to follow along the predicted course and call back the other Wings if necessary, but not a strand came down. There was more rejoicing back at the Weyr. Wine flowed freely on every table. D’gar only had a few cups, much as he’d always done. People drank to forget, didn’t they? Or to feel merry. He rejected both.

A sevenday passed since S’brin and Zemianth died; D’gar still felt oddly detached from the rest of the Weyr. From himself, too. The only time he felt alive was when he was in the air, fighting. The rest of it was like stumbling through an endless fog. Days passed in a blur. He slept whenever he could, usually next to Herebeth and sat in his expected place at ‘C’ Wing’s table for meals. People tried to include him in conversation, but once they realised he didn’t want to join in, they left him alone. J’rud tried a few times, too, but got the same treatment. Talking to J’rud would only serve as another reminder of the past.

Thread fell over the north of Ruatha on schedule. It was like the ones they’d used to have a Turn or more ago; an unchanging, regular pattern once more. Herebeth and D’gar flew as they had before, cutting turns as tightly as a brown dragon could and coming very close to live Thread more than a few times. D’gar knew he should stop endangering Herebeth, but Herebeth seemed eager to fight in the same style. Only once did he baulk from a manoeuvre, leaving it to Zath to take the tangle of strands.

We were too close that time.

I know. It had scared D’gar slightly. Not for himself, but because Herebeth would have been the one who ended up scored. It made him draw back into something closer to their old fighting style for the rest of the Fall.

This time it was J’rud who caught him afterwards in the baths. ‘Are you mad? Zurinth saw what nearly happened today.’

‘I’m fine.’ It had become his stock answer.

‘You’re not fine. You’re not even coping.’ His voice was raised slightly. Other riders turned to look. Everyone enjoyed a bit of drama.

‘Not here, please.’ D’gar felt uncomfortable.

‘Oh, so you do care what people think, then?’

‘Just leave me alone.’

‘I’ve been doing that for long enough. It’s time we talked.’

More riders were staring now. ‘J’rud, don’t.’

‘Don’t what?’

‘Force me into something I’m not ready for.’

J’rud shook his head. ‘And in the meantime, I have to watch you trying to kill yourself? Even if you don’t care about yourself, what about Herebeth? What about me? I still love you, you idiot.’

‘That’s your problem, then.’ He pushed J’rud away and climbed out of the pool, not looking back.

Later, in his weyr, he felt guilty. J’rud didn’t deserve to be treated like that. And yet, he didn’t feel ready to talk, not about the kind of serious matters J’rud no doubt had in mind. It was just getting to the point where he could shut his eyes without those awful images instantly springing to life. Discussing S’brin’s death would be like picking at a scab that was beginning to heal over. Then there was the whole weyrmates situation. D’gar wasn’t sure he still wanted to be weyrmates without S’brin as the central anchor, but J’rud probably didn’t see it that way. He wasn’t sure he could deal with the situation right now. So, best to avoid it. If Thread got him next Fall, or the one after, then he’d never have to explain. And J’rud would mourn a lot less if they hadn’t been so close recently.

Three days later, far enough into tenth month for the leaves to be turning colour and with Ruatha’s fields taking on the brown, ploughed look of winter rather than the golden tones of harvest, they fought over the Hold itself. Another proper Fall, with a pair lost and the expected number of injuries. He didn’t take any unnecessary risks this time, aware his wingmates would be watching him.

They flew in perfect formation, through a cloudless blue sky. Even with only fifteen dragons fighting, ‘C’ Wing did a good job. The whole Weyr, depleted though it was, fought well, with only a few stray strands getting through. He wondered if it might be the last Fall, but of course no one would know for sure until no further Thread fell. Still, you couldn’t deny the Red Star was dwindling in the evening sky as it moved further away from Pern. It had to end soon, surely?

Three times after that, they formed up as usual, the dragons primed with firestone, riders ready to face their ancient foe and no Thread fell. No grey veil of mindless death sullied the skies. The dragons expended their flame on burning off greenery edging towards the safe margin around dwellings. ‘B’ Wing happily set fire to a few stubble fields for a farm holder. The rest of them simply played games; seeing which dragon could flame the furthest, widest or longest.

T’ron called a meeting of the other Weyrleaders, who reported they had experienced much the same. He made an announcement to that effect in the dining hall the same evening. Although he was still cautious and confirmed one Wing would be sent up for each predicted Fall from now until Turn’s End, just in case, it was clear from the reactions everyone knew it really was over.

Cheers erupted from every table. The kitchen staff emerged to join in the celebrations. Wine flowed freely and outside, dragons bugled, echoing the emotions of their riders.

D’gar sat with a cup of wine in front of him. If what they were saying was true, then S’brin had died just two full Falls before the last. How unfair could life be? While he was left behind, the future stretching before him unchanging, endless and lonely.

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

D'gar can't think about the fact that just two falls have happened since S'brin passed; would it have been better if it was three or ten or only one?  Losing your lifemate is not something you just recover from; but facing the truth and reality of the situation is among the first thing you have to do before you move on.  

When it happened is irrelevant, the fact it did happen is what matters.  You must face what is before you can move on.  I am more worried that he is pushing everyone away, even J'rud.  

How much of a break before the find out how far forward they need to go?  Going forward may have been what saves D'gar in the end.  We will see...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What a sad but necessary chapter. At times like this words can only mean so much and say so little. D'gar needs to remember what he is an why he fights. As we all know the near future will be gruesome, D'gar needs to pull up his bootstraps!

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It’s hard to understand the lack of sympathy from those other riders.  You’d think that by now, they’d have seen such a wide range of reactions to grief that they would recognize D’gar’s state of shock.  R’feem, for one, should have spoken to the others with their lack of sympathy.  D’Gar will have to do something for J’rud.  He is suffering also.  Hopefully, they can help each other.  I don’t remember their relationship in the first story.

Thread is coming to an end.  Lessa will be arriving soon (and he has the Moreta Tapestry?) which will present them with a whole new set of adventures.  I hope you carry the story up into that point.

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10 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

When it happened is irrelevant, the fact it did happen is what matters.  You must face what is before you can move on.  I am more worried that he is pushing everyone away, even J'rud.  

How much of a break before the find out how far forward they need to go?  Going forward may have been what saves D'gar in the end.  We will see...

Once Thread is finished and he can't just throw himself into work any more, then he'll have time to face it and reflect. It's not too long after the last Threadfall that Lessa arrives from the future (she used the depiction of Ruatha Hold on the tapestry made to commemorate the last Fall) which will start off the rollercoaster leading to the Weyrs going forward.

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8 hours ago, drsawzall said:

What a sad but necessary chapter. At times like this words can only mean so much and say so little. D'gar needs to remember what he is an why he fights. As we all know the near future will be gruesome, D'gar needs to pull up his bootstraps!

He'll have some help soon, plus the speculation surrounding Lessa's arrival (although for most Fort Weyrfolk it will be Ramoth who draws their attention once she's recovered sufficiently to fly around.

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7 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

 

It’s hard to understand the lack of sympathy from those other riders.  You’d think that by now, they’d have seen such a wide range of reactions to grief that they would recognize D’gar’s state of shock.  R’feem, for one, should have spoken to the others with their lack of sympathy.  D’Gar will have to do something for J’rud.  He is suffering also.  Hopefully, they can help each other.  I don’t remember their relationship in the first story.

 

In some cases it's because they don’t like him much - he was never that popular with the crazy greens - but they've also become hardened to death, unless it happens to someone close. Plus, I think there's the attitude that a person is never alone while they have their dragon.

D'gar was always concerned about J'rud in GAGA, although at the beginning there's some friction when he's talking to H'rek in the dining hall and J'rud realises Herebeth is going to chase Rioth.

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