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    Mawgrim
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction that combine worlds created by the original content owner with names, places, characters, events, and incidents that are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, companies, events or locales are entirely coincidental. Authors are responsible for properly crediting Original Content creator for their creative works. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Dragonriders of Pern series was created by Ann McCaffrey in 1967 and spans 24+ books published by Ballantine Books, Atheneum Books, Bantam Books, and Del Rey Books.  Any recognizable content in this story is from Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey or their representatives or inheritors.  Original content provided by author of this FanFiction story without monetary compensation.

To the Weyr - 1. Pinnacle Hold

Pinnacle Hold was a long way from anywhere, lying on the eastern edge of Bitra, in the foothills of the Benden range. It had been built of the same grey rock as the mountains and huddled against the side of the pointed crag that had given the place its name. A few rooms nestled just within the thick outer walls, but most of the living accommodation had been enlarged from natural caverns deep inside the rock. Even when the shutters were opened wide on summer days, it was always gloomy inside.

The upland soil was too poor to grow crops, so for Turns, the inhabitants had grazed horned herdbeasts on the slopes. The small, nimble beasts gave birth each spring and once their young ones were weaned, provided milk which was turned into cheese. It was a hard living, but Jevikel knew nothing else. He was the oldest son of Vikkel, the Holder and from an early age he knew he would be expected to take over one day.

His mother taught him his letters and numbers, because they would be useful as he grew older. In Pinnacle Hold, anything deemed impractical was discouraged. Education consisted of learning all about the land and the beasts. In the winter, when harsh weather confined the family and workers to the Hold, Granny Val recited as many of the Teaching Ballads she could remember to the children, her voice being too cracked to sing them.

When Jevikel was eight Turns of age, the winter was exceptionally cold. Even the herdbeasts chose to huddle under the shelter of the barn, eating dried grasses, while snow lashed the outer walls of the Hold. Deep inside, fires burned brightly. Women mended clothing, or knitted, while men drank klah and played card games. Jevikel and his older sister Kemi sat by Granny Val. She was always good for a tale or two, if she was in the right mood.

‘Tell us a story,’ Kemi wheedled. ‘Please…’

‘Haven’t I told you all of them already?’

‘I don’t think so.’ Kemi could be persistent when she wanted.

‘All right, then.’ The old woman sucked on her toothless gums. ‘You know, us all being cooped up inside here, reminds me of the olden days, back when Thread fell. Everyone had to shelter under stone as we are now; beasts and folk alike.’

‘Was that when you were little?’ Jevikel asked. She seemed ancient to him.

Granny laughed, the wrinkles on her face growing deeper as she showed her toothless gums. ‘Oh no, lad. It was much longer ago than that. Why, even when my own granny was just a little girl, no one had seen Thread for hundreds of Turns.’

‘What is Thread, anyway?’ Jevikel wanted to know. His natural curiosity always led him to ask more questions, even when father glared in that way he had, showing he disapproved.

‘Thread!’ she exclaimed. ‘It fell from the sky, eating everything it touched.’

‘Herdbeasts?’ he’d asked.

‘Oh, yes, if they were left outside. People too…’

‘It ate people?’ That sounded gruesome, but like many boys of his age, Jevikel was fascinated by grisly sights. Hot blood steaming in the winter air when one of the beasts was slaughtered; a carcass, half-eaten by tunnel snakes. Thread sounded even more horrible. ‘How? Did it have teeth?’

She shook her head. ‘No. It dissolved them away, like they were dropped in agenothree. All that was left was anything metal they might have been wearing.’ She dropped her voice, leaning closer. ‘I did hear a story once about two children. A brother and a sister, just like you are. They went out playing on the hillside. Their mother had warned them not to stray too far because Thread was due that day, but they’d forgotten, as children do.’ She stared at the rocky ceiling above, putting on an expression of surprise. ‘All of a sudden, they looked up and saw the blue sky had turned to dull grey. Something was falling, but it wasn’t rain.’

‘Was it Thread?’ he asked.

Granny nodded. ‘They started to run for home, but it was sweeping down fast. Even a grown man couldn’t hope to outrun it, let alone two small children. Everywhere it landed, grass and plants shrivelled and died. They were almost in sight of the Hold when it caught them…’ She paused for effect. ‘And it ate every bit of them, in a matter of moments.’

Jevikel felt a shiver run down his spine. It was almost as if he could feel Thread touching his neck. Then he realised it was Kemi, trailing a piece of yarn over his bare skin. He batted it away. ‘Get off!’

‘Got you there,’ she laughed.

Granny waited for them to settle. ‘When Fall was over, searchers went out to look for them. All they ever found was the boy’s belt buckle and a copper comb the girl had worn in her hair.’

‘What nonsense are you filling their heads with now?’ Jevikel’s mother came through from the cheese room, her sleeves still rolled up.

‘Just telling them about Thread.’

His mother made a tutting sound. ‘Well, at least they’re never going to have to worry about that. Thread’s gone for good, so they say.’

Granny shook her head. ‘We don’t know that for certain, Jemina. The Harpers still teach the old ballads for good reason.’

‘Yes, to keep us all frightened so that we carry on sending tithes to the Weyr. Vikkel says it’s not coming back and I believe him, as a good wife should.’

Jevikel’s father didn’t believe in anything that couldn’t be weighed out, measured and paid for in marks. He drove himself as hard as any of the rest of his family and workers who resided at the Hold. His main concern was always the herds they relied upon for their livelihood.

By the time Jevikel was twelve, he was considered to be responsible enough to take them up to the higher pastures during the summer months, where they could eat the sweet herbs that made their milk taste so good. Sometimes, they returned to the Hold at night, but if the beasts had strayed too far, he’d make a fire and gaze at the sky; the familiar patterns of the stars and the two moons, Belior and Timor. He often woke near dawn, when the night’s temperatures had dropped and his fire burned down to embers. Before the sun rose, a large star hung on the eastern horizon. A reddish coloured star. For some reason, it made him uneasy, although daylight faded it to nothingness, just like all the other stars in the sky.

Life in the Hold followed the same pattern as it had always done. Turns were only memorable because of an exceptionally bad winter, sickness or through unusual events. The Turn Jevikel was thirteen some traders visited Pinnacle. They brought fancy goods and stories from the greater world beyond the bounds of the Hold. There was a new queen dragon at Benden Weyr, their leader said, ridden by the last Lady of Ruathan blood. One of the dragonriders had slain Fax, the Lord of seven Holds, in a duel. He made it all sound very exciting, almost as good as a Harper’s tale, but without the musical accompaniment. Jevikel hadn’t heard much music in his life, but once, five Turns ago, a Harper had stayed for a few days and he’d found the melodies entrancing.

His father made no bones about what he thought of the Weyr and its dragons. ‘Useless anachronisms,’ he said, once the traders had left. ‘Dragonriders won’t do an honest day’s work but expect us to provide them with everything. And they’re a load of perverts, to boot.’

A tut from Jemina stopped Vikkel from elaborating any further on that topic. ‘People had no choice but to put up with it back in the days when Thread fell from the skies, but why should we have to support them now it’s stopped?’

By then, Jevikel knew better than to ask questions. As he’d grown older, glares had given way to more painful reminders there were things he didn’t need to know about. Like everyone else, he listened to his father ranting on about the Weyr and said nothing. Later on, in the boys sleeping room, Sarrando, who was a couple of Turns older, told them what Vikkel had meant.

‘When the dragons mate, everyone in the Weyr goes crazy. They have this mass orgy that goes on for days. Men with women, men with men, women with women…’ He paused, to let his listeners visualise it for themselves. ‘That’s why they don’t get no work done and rely on us sending them food. They feed outsiders to their dragons too, just for sport.'

‘That’s rubbish,’ Rosh put in. He was a tall, wiry lad and had only been at Pinnacle Hold for a few months. Vikkel had taken on new workers at the spring hiring fair. ‘Weyr’s nothing like that.’

‘Oh, yeah?’ Sarrando scoffed. ‘And how would you know?’

‘Two Turns back, I was hired for a tithe train. I’d heard all that stuff about folk getting eaten so I was a bit worried, but all the old hands assured me it were just talk. And they was right. The weyrfolk were good to us all, even let us rest up for a day before we had to head back. And the dragons…’ His voice took on a touch of awe. ‘They’re incredible. One of the riders let me touch his dragon.’

‘I bet he did,’ Sarrando said, with a leer. ‘We know what you’re like.’

Jevikel wasn’t quite sure what he meant, although he had an idea. Maybe Sarrando was pushing for a fight? Although probably not here and now. Fights usually happened outside. His father only cared if someone was so badly hurt they couldn’t work.

‘You’ve got a dirty mind,’ Rosh sounded calm. ‘Just because I don’t boast about all the girls I’ve had like you do…’

‘Girls like me,’ Sarrando said. ‘Can’t help that, can I?’

‘Be fine till you get one of ‘em into trouble.’

‘You wouldn’t know what to do with a woman.’

‘Bet you don’t either. Bet you’re all talk and no action.’ Col stepped in. That was unusual. When tempers flared, he usually stayed quiet.

‘Leave it,’ Rosh said to him. ‘I can deal with this wherry-brained idiot.’

Sarrando moved fast for someone his size. ‘Say that again.’ He shoved Rosh, who staggered slightly, but stood his ground.

‘Oh, can’t hear either?’ Rosh recovered himself. ‘Wherry-brained idiot,’ he repeated.

Berrand nudged Jevikel. ‘Bet there’ll be a fight,’ he hissed.

‘Right. That’s it. I’ll show you, you mouthy bastard.’

‘You can try.’

There was tension in the air. For a moment, Jevikel thought violence might erupt, but a couple of Sarrando’s friends stopped him. ‘Not here. We’ll all get a beating, if you do.’

Rosh stood facing him. Not having been at the Hold long, he didn’t have any friends for support, although Col hovered close. ‘Where and when?’

‘Tomorrow, after work. In the high field.’

Well away from the Hold, then. Jevikel had seen Sarrando fight a few times. He was big and heavy and packed a punch. Rosh was a lot lighter, but nimble. Plus, no one knew what he was capable of. Maybe his vicious fighting ability was the reason he didn’t stay anywhere long? He’d proved a good worker, so far, so it couldn’t be that.

The next day, everyone got on with their usual tasks, but Jevikel sensed an undercurrent of tension. Word had got around about the fight. Sarrando had probably told Fiolla, his current girlfriend and she must have passed it on. By the time work ended, a large crowd made their way up the steep path to the top of the hill.

‘Sarrando will take him, easy,’ Berrand said excitedly. He hero-worshipped his older brother, which Jevikel supposed was natural. Jevikel didn’t much like Sarrando. He was too loud and boastful. Sometimes he was rough with the animals when he didn’t think anyone was looking.

‘Don’t assume that,’ he cautioned. ‘We’ve seen your brother fight, but Rosh is an unknown quantity.’

‘He’s scrawny.’

‘Doesn’t mean he’s not strong. And he might have picked up a few nasty tricks in his travels.’

‘Sounds like you want him to win.’

Privately, Jevikel wouldn’t mind if that happened. Sarrando could do with taking down a peg or two. But he wouldn’t say that to Berrand, as he was a friend. ‘Course not. Pinnacle Hold always supports our own.’

They found a perch atop one of the stone walls, which gave them a good view despite being smaller than many of the other spectators. Sarrando stood with his friends, limbering up by stretching and throwing a few punches at a feeding bag stuffed with hay. Rosh stood alone, seemingly calm. He’d already taken off his shirt, revealing a few scars on his torso which looked to have been made by a knife.

Jevikel pointed them out to Berrand. ‘See. I told you he’s probably been in some serious brawls.’

‘He’d better not pull a knife on my brother.’

‘I doubt he’d dare.’ Jevikel hoped he was right. ‘And Tallis will make sure.’

Tallis was around the same age as his own father. He often supervised fights to make sure no one was injured too badly. Apparently he’d been a bit of a scrapper himself when younger. Sure enough, he went over to each of the lads to make sure they knew the rules. The winner would be the one who managed to put his opponent on the ground three times, although in Sarrando’s last fight, Monsan had given in a lot sooner. That one, he recalled, had been as a result of Sarrando saying something bad about Monsan’s sister after they broke up.

‘It’s starting.’ Berrand nudged him.

Rosh and Sarrando had moved closer to each other. Jevikel expected Sarrando would be the one to make the first move and he was right. He charged at Rosh, slamming into him. But Rosh stood his ground, then did some sort of twist Jevikel had never seen before. Sarrando hit the ground heavily. He wasn’t hurt, though and got to his feet again quickly. Still, it wasn’t a good beginning for him.

‘One down,’ Tallis said.

Rosh went on the attack. They grappled together for several seconds. Sarrando landed a couple of punches but missed a few more. Rosh caught him with one on the face. When they broke apart, blood ran down from Sarrando’s left eyebrow.

The girls made sympathetic noises. ‘Get him!’ Fiolla called out.

Sarrando glanced her way and as he did, Rosh lunged at him again and put him on the ground a second time.

Berrand groaned. ‘That weren’t fair.’

Jevikel didn’t correct him. He was realising that when fights took place between folk who had grown up together, they knew what they were up against. Rosh, not being from Pinnacle, was using unfamiliar tactics.

Sarrando must have known it wasn’t looking good for him. He tackled Rosh and got in another couple of jabs, winding him. As Rosh staggered back, Sarrando pressed his advantage, hitting him in the face. Rosh fell back. He stayed there for a while.

‘He’s hurt him this time,’ Berrand said, with glee.

Jevikel wasn’t so sure. Rosh looked more like he was giving himself time to recover and thinking out his next move. He wiped his mouth, his hand coming away red.

Sarrando’s friends jeered at him. ‘Go on. Finish him off!’ one called out.

Sarrando took that as encouragement. He was waiting as Rosh got carefully to his feet and went for him right away. But Rosh was ready. He kicked at the centre of Sarrando’s chest, forcing him backwards. Sarrando only just avoided falling and while he was still off balance, Rosh kicked out a second time with deadly precision. Slowly, Sarrando crumpled, firstly to his knees, then all the way to the ground. It reminded Jevikel of the way a slaughtered beast sometimes went down.

Fiolla gave a little scream and rushed over to her boyfriend as Tallis announced Rosh to be the winner.

‘Bloody Bitran,’ Berrand swore. ‘They always fight dirty.’

The crowd dispersed. A couple of Sarrando’s friends helped him up. Rosh walked back down the hill, alone, although Jevikel noticed Col trailing after him.

Over the next few sevendays, he was sent up to the hills much of the time, caring for the animals. It was seventh month, when Bitra Hold held its annual Gather, but he wouldn’t be missing out. Vikkel had already announced no one was allowed time off to attend. ‘Too far to travel,’ he’d said. ‘There’s nothing at Bitra we can’t get in the market at Valley Narrows, or make ourselves.’

Kemi remembered attending once, when she’d been much younger. ‘There were acrobats,’ she’d told Jevikel. ‘A woman who told fortunes. And dragons, too. A bright blue one and a shiny bronze, perched on the outer wall of the Hold.’

‘I wish I could have gone.’ Jevikel had never been anywhere, except for Valley Narrows. Even that had seemed so full of people, it overwhelmed him. What it would be like to travel from place to place, as the traders did? Or to fly high above the land, on board a huge dragon that would do anything you asked of it? He knew the Weyr was due east, in the middle of the Benden range, far from any human habitation. A few times when he was out with the herdbeasts, he’d spotted dragons; brightly coloured specks in the sky, vanishing almost as soon as seen. Perhaps one day, he’d see them up close, as Kemi had done, although there wouldn’t be much chance of that at Pinnacle. The one time dragonriders had visited, Vikkel had made sure all the young folk kept out of sight. Keeping them safe, he’d been told afterwards. Now, he wasn’t so sure.

Eighth month brought a heatwave. He was glad to be away from the Hold, then. It was cooler in the mountains and the streams running down from the high peaks always held on to winter’s chill. All too soon, though, it was time to round up the beasts and bring them back. These were youngsters born in early spring and fattened through the summer. He didn’t get much rest on his return. It was a busy time. Older lads and the men worked in the fields lower down the valley, harvesting roots and hay to keep the animals fed throughout the winter. Everyone else, Jevikel included, had to help pick the ripe fruit from the orchards, or forage for wild berries. Soon, the Hold would be filled with the smells of pickling and preserving as summer’s bounty was carefully stored.

The only good thing about it was that he had the chance to work with Kemi, who filled him in on what he’d missed.

‘Fiolla’s not seeing Sarrando any more.’

‘Oh? Who’s he moved on to now?’

‘Merri, would you believe. Only last spring she told me she wouldn’t have anything to do with him if he were the last man on Pern. I don’t know what they see in him.’

Jevikel had an idea. He’d sneaked a few looks at Sarrando when they were getting dressed, although you had to be careful in case someone noticed. He kept telling himself it was risky, but somehow, he couldn’t stop himself.

‘Fiolla’s been trying her chances with Rosh, but she says he just ignores her.’

‘Maybe he’s intending to move on again?’

‘Doesn’t stop some lads. Or men.’ She dropped another handful of berries into the basket between them. ‘How about you. Any of the girls you like the look of?’

‘I’m only thirteen,’ he protested.

‘But you’re growing up. Those trousers are way above your ankles now.’

It was true. Jemina had sighed as she’d handed him a new shirt recently and he was sure the boots he’d worn last winter were going to pinch his toes this Turn. Still, Kemi was waiting for an answer. ‘Sisala’s pretty,’ he said. Everyone said the same, so he was safe there. ‘Don’t say anything to her, though.’

‘Don’t worry,’ she assured him. ‘There’ll be time for all that this winter, when we’re stuck in the Hold.’

Jevikel had witnessed the courting rituals many a time. The boys would dare each other to talk to a particular girl. If she turned away, there’d be taunting and mockery of the one who’d tried. Sometimes that had the effect of changing the girl’s mind, as she’d feel sorry for him. It was a game almost as ancient as the Hold itself. He knew he’d have to take part at some point, even if he didn’t want to. Otherwise, folk would start talking…

‘Are you daydreaming about her?’ Kemi teased. ‘You’ve not picked any berries for a good few minutes.’

‘Sorry,’ he said quickly and tried to catch up, squashing a few in the process. A few Turns ago he’d looked forward to getting older. But now it seemed growing up held more complications he wasn’t going to be able to avoid.

©1967-2022 Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey; All Rights Reserved; Copyright © 2022 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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New chapters will be posted each Thursday.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction that combine worlds created by the original content owner with names, places, characters, events, and incidents that are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, companies, events or locales are entirely coincidental. Authors are responsible for properly crediting Original Content creator for their creative works. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Dragonriders of Pern series was created by Ann McCaffrey in 1967 and spans 24+ books published by Ballantine Books, Atheneum Books, Bantam Books, and Del Rey Books.  Any recognizable content in this story is from Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey or their representatives or inheritors.  Original content provided by author of this FanFiction story without monetary compensation.

Story Discussion Topic

It is with great sadness I must announce the death of Mawgrim, Promising Author on GA. He had been in declining health for some time and passed away on Christmas Day. Mawgrim worked for decades as a cinema projectionist before his retirement and was able to use this breadth of knowledge to his stories set in cinemas. He also gave us stories with his take on the World of Pern with its dragon riders. He will be greatly missed and our condolences go out to his friends, family, and his husband.
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Jevikel is so fascinated by the world outside his home that I doubt he will remain in his hold.  His interest in Rosh is definitely greater than his interest in girls.  He is lucky to have his grandmother and sister on his side.  No doubt that his father will try to keep Jevikel under his control. This is a great start on which to build a story and gives insight to what happens in small holds.

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I guess Jevikel was too young to be Searched anyway, when the dragonriders visited. But a shame he didn't get a chance to see them up close.

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Jevikel is inquisitive and has the heart of a wanderer. He's unlikely to stay in this backwater, especially with his inclinations.

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