Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

    Mawgrim
  • Author
  • 3,329 Words
  • 2,314 Views
  • 23 Comments
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 - 11. Threadfall

They’d been on the road since dawn, climbing steadily. Only Vikkel remained on the cart, driving the runner beasts with care. Any weight that could be spared helped, but progress was painfully slow. The sun rose higher, marking the time slipping away.

Jevikel’s thoughts kept turning to Kadin, up in the hills. How soon before Thread began to fall would he and Berrand receive a warning? Herding the beasts to a place of safety would take time and there were always a few stragglers who weren’t cooperative.

‘Are we going to make it?’ Gatri asked, yet again.

‘Of course we are.’ Jevikel wasn’t entirely sure, but he felt as if he had to put on a brave face for her and for Girtal. As they walked, he kept scanning the rock face to the right, looking for openings where a few people could shelter, if it came to that. Surely if the dragonriders saw folk on the road below, they’d do their utmost to protect them? But the sight of flaming dragons would definitely terrify the runner beasts. He visualised the cart turning over, the animals straining to get away, injuring themselves as dragons flamed Thread above them.

He glanced up at his father. Vikkel’s face was set in a grim mask. He was pushing the beasts as hard as he dared. Sweat had turned to foam beneath their harness and their breathing was laboured. They’d stopped once already for a rest and it looked as if they’d need one again soon.

Vikkel must have thought the same. ‘Get the wedges ready,’ he called down. On such a steep gradient, the brakes needed supplementing, especially with the cart so heavily laden.

Jevikel dropped back to the tail of the cart, where the wedges hung from their pegs. As soon as it stopped, he shoved the first behind the nearest wheel, then dodged around to the other side to do the same. Gatri carried one of the water buckets forward to allow the beasts a short drink.

The sky was overcast, as it had been all morning. Jevikel recalled Granny Val’s tale of the two children caught in Threadfall. Hadn’t she said the sky turned darker beforehand, as if it was about to rain? How could you tell, when it was so cloudy?

Vikkel got down to stretch his legs. Girtal looked up to Jevikel. ‘If Thread comes, can we hide under the cart?’

‘No. That wouldn’t be safe. You need to find somewhere like a cave. Somewhere surrounded by rock.’

‘The dragons will keep us from harm,’ Gatri told her brother, although there was doubt in her voice.

It was hard to believe how attitudes had changed since the dragonriders had come to Valley Narrows just yesterday. Gatri, like most of the folk at Pinnacle, had shared Vikkel’s scepticism about Thread’s return.

‘We’ll be back well beforehand,’ Vikkel said. ‘We’re more than two thirds of the way and they said mid-afternoon. It’s barely past noon.’ He scanned the sky again. ‘Preparations should be well under way at the Hold by now.’

Although most of the herd had gone up to the high pastures, some still remained; orphaned youngsters and those who had been deemed too weak to make the trek, but who might still survive with a helping hand. Where were they all going to go? There were still lots of gaps in the walls between fields and although they’d fit in the main barn, was that really a safe place with the reed roof?

‘Best get going,’ Vikkel said after he’d checked the runner beasts’ breathing had returned to normal. He climbed back to the driver’s bench. After the cart had pulled away, Jevikel recovered the wedges and hung them in place for next time.

This was the steepest part of the road. Jevikel found it hard going and he wasn’t even carrying anything. Gatri had resorted to putting one hand on the side of the cart. He wasn’t sure if that actually helped, but it gave the illusion of support. Her skirts caught at her legs, making the trek harder.

Just like the others, he kept checking the sky. Low cloud obscured the peaks of the Benden mountains. Was it really only cloud? Not having any personal experience of Thread, Jevikel couldn’t be certain. Once again, he found himself worrying about Kadin; the same fears as before. It was no use trying to reassure himself they’d be fine. He’d only know for sure after Fall had passed and then, only if he went up to the hills to find out. Maybe he could persuade Vikkel to let him do that? Vikkel would surely be concerned enough about the fate of Pinnacle’s breeding herd to send someone.

The runner beasts were tiring again, but they knew they were close to home, which urged them on. Past the second turn, the road levelled out slightly and this also encouraged them to keep going.

‘Look!’ Girtal pointed up. ‘Dragons.’

Two greens were flying at a low level. Were these the ones sent out to warn folk Thread was coming? It certainly seemed so, as they began to descend, having spotted the cart. Knowing the effect their dragons would have on runner beasts, one of them landed a short distance away, while the other stayed in a slow, banking circle. The rider leapt off and made his way across the scree as fast as he could without turning an ankle.

‘Are you folk from that Hold further up?’ He sounded slightly out of breath. It couldn’t be easy running in those big boots and heavy flying gear.

Vikkel answered. ‘We are.’

‘Then keep going and get those beasts under cover as quick as you can. Fall will begin to the north east of here, but it moves at a fast pace. We’ll have a full quota of wings in the air to fight Thread, but some will be flying low and your runner beasts won’t like that.’

‘How long do we have?’ Jevikel asked.

The rider turned to him. ‘We can’t pinpoint to the exact moment when Fall will start. That’s why we’ve been sent out on sweep, to make sure everyone’s inside, except for ground crew. You have ground crew at the ready?’

‘I’ve been away the past few days,’ Vikkel said shortly, ‘But if my folk had warning, then they should have made arrangements. Are those flamethrowers ready yet?’

‘We have some available for dealing with burrows the dragons can’t get to. You should be getting your own before the next Fall is due. Now, I’m going to have to hurry you along.’

‘Did you see any of our folk up in the hills?’ Jevikel couldn’t stop himself from asking.

‘M’par and I are checking from your Hold down to Valley Narrows. But there’ll be other riders covering that area.’

It was all the reassurance he was going to get regarding Kadin’s safety. The green rider hurried back to his dragon, while Vikkel urged the runner beasts onward. Jevikel spared a glance to watch as the dragon took off again. It looked so effortless and the speed with which the pair were gone made a mockery of their own slow plodding. One foot in front of the other, each step bringing them closer to safety. Shortly before they arrived, a fine rain began to fall, although not enough to drown Thread, if what he’d heard yesterday was accurate.

Jevikel had never been so glad to see the Hold. Most folk must already be inside. Only Tallis and Sarrando stood in the courtyard, evidently waiting for them. Sarrando dragged open the doors to the barn extension where the cart was kept, while Vikkel backed the beasts up, guiding it inside.

‘Shall we unload now?’ Tallis asked.

‘Not enough time according to those riders.’ Vikkel jumped down. ‘You’ve secured all the beasts?’

‘In t’other barn.’ Sarrando set to and detached the runner beasts from the shafts. ‘Shall I put these two in with ‘em?’

‘Best do that.’

Jevikel helped him. The herdbeasts had been penned towards the back of the main barn, kept there by hurdles. There was just about room in front for the two big runner beasts. They drank heartily from the trough before starting to pull at the hay pile.

Vikkel and Tallis arrived as they were shutting the heavy doors. ‘Right, lads,’ Vikkel said. ‘Best get yourselves inside. We’re staying out here in the field shelter.’

It was probably the safest structure outside of the inner Hold; stone built and with a pitched roof made of slate. The herdbeasts had trodden the area around it to mud; not a blade of grass in sight.

‘I’ll stay,’ Jevikel said. It didn’t feel right to be hiding in the Hold when Kadin didn’t have that protection. ‘The more of us looking out for Thread, the better.’

‘Yeah. I will too.’ Sarrando obviously didn’t want to appear cowardly in front of someone younger.

‘Sure?’ Vikkel asked. ‘You can’t change your mind later.’

‘I’m sure.’

Girtal and Gatri were just disappearing inside. The doors clanged shut behind them. Jevikel hoped everyone had the sense to retreat back inside the cliff face, just in case any Thread got onto the reed thatch of the Outer Hold. Surely the dragonriders would have told them that?

‘I’d like to get my hands on one of them flamethrowers,’ Tallis said. ‘I mean, what can we do without them?’

‘Observe, they said. Signal them if we spot any Thread landing close by.’

‘Maybe we should light a fire,’ Jevikel suggested. ‘If we’ve a good blaze going it’ll burn up any Thread that falls near to us.’

‘Good thinking. You lads go and fetch some dry tinder and logs. Quickly now.’

He and Sarrando ran over to the log store and began filling a couple of baskets.

‘Are you scared?’ Sarrando asked.

‘A bit.’ It was the uncertainty that made him most nervous. How thick and fast did Thread fall? How much evaded the dragons? At least by the next Fall they’d have prior experience.

‘I want to see for myself if it’s as bad as they say.’

Jevikel thought it probably was. If not, why the need for Weyrs and dragons? ‘I bet it is,’ he replied, picking up the loaded basket and hefting it to his shoulder. ‘Come on. We don’t know how much time before it gets here.’

Having dumped the first load inside the store, they returned for more. By the time they brought it back, Tallis and Vikkel had a small fire burning outside. Jevikel glanced at the sky again. The rain was falling steadily now, reducing visibility, but flashes of orange flame showed where dragons were mounting their attack.

‘Thread must be falling over there,’ he said, pointing.

Vikkel threw another log onto the fire, which the damp made smoky. ‘I never thought I’d see this day.’

‘None of us did,’ Tallis agreed.

Jevikel found the sight both compulsive and chilling. It moved faster than a rain squall; far quicker than a man could run, or even one of those runner beasts bred for speed rather than strength.

‘Best get inside, lads. Once it’s passed overhead, we can set out to see if any has got to ground.’

The mud and dung inside the shelter squished beneath his boots. Smoke blew across the open entrance as logs spat sparks, vying with the rain. He wished Kadin was here with him, to be sure he was safe in the middle of this.

He couldn’t see any sky, just the slope of the field down to the courtyard. From above came the roar of flames from the dragons and occasional human shouts. It was far less noisy than he’d imagined and somehow that made it all the more frightening. His first sight of Thread was of something similar in colour yet separate from the falling rain, drifting in spirals like a wherry feather. A dark green dragon dived into view, fire erupting from its mouth to char the filament before it reached the ground. It was close enough that the downdraught fanned their own, puny fire as its wings beat and the dragon ascended out of sight.

‘Whoa!’ Sarrando spoke for all of them. ‘That was amazing.’

Mostly unseen above them, the battle continued. Occasionally there was a glimpse of a low flying dragon; a leg, tail or wing. A foul smelling ash began to fall along with the drizzle. The air stank of burned and rotting vegetation, with a hint of something metallic which caught in Jevikel’s throat. He’d been thirsty from the start, but there was no water to be had. He kept thinking about the spring that flowed just outside the Hold. How clean and refreshing it would taste right now. Beside him, Sarrando spat, presumably to get the unpleasant flavour from his mouth. ‘How much longer?’ he asked, voicing what they must all be thinking.

Jevikel wished he knew. It seemed as if they had been here for a very long time.

‘Patience, lad.’ Vikkel stood in the doorway and threw another couple of logs on the fire to keep it going.

‘When they came here yesterday they said it moves across the land like a rainstorm. It shouldn’t be directly overhead for too much longer.’ Tallis coughed. ‘Next time, I’m bringing a cloth to tie over me face.’

The ash fell less thickly now. That must surely mean Thread had almost passed over them. Jevikel moved closer to the door, to try and see, without leaning out too far. The taste of woodsmoke was almost pleasant compared to the stinking ash. Low cloud prevented him from seeing much, but what he spotted in the first couple of seconds sent a shiver down his spine. A small piece of Thread floated delicately down toward the main barn roof, presumably unnoticed by dragons. He looked away, then back, to make sure he wasn’t mistaken, but it was still there, still falling.

‘Thread’s going to hit the barn.’

He found himself pushed to the side of the doorway as the other three rushed forward.

‘Where?’ Vikkel narrowed his eyes.

‘To the left.’ Jevikel pointed. It reflected light in a different way than rain and it fell in a distinctive way that made it stand out against the background.

Tallis found it. ‘It’s just a small bit. Can that do much harm?’

Jevikel didn’t know. The worst part was just watching, unable to do anything. Even if they'd had flame throwers, it was too far from the ground for them to burn. The wind caught it, first blowing one way, then the other. For a few heartbeats, Jevikel thought it might miss and fall safely onto the stone of the courtyard, but then a stray gust took it back again, catching the edge of the roof where it abutted with the cliff face.

All of a sudden, the thin strand began to swell and writhe, turning from silver to a sickly grey as it fed on the organic matter of the roof. It wouldn’t be long before it ate right through, to drop onto the penned and helpless beasts inside.

Jevikel acted instantly and without thinking of the danger. He ran down the hill. Shouts rang out behind him, then Sarrando was alongside, Vikkel and Tallis close behind.

He had to watch his step; the hillside was steep and dotted with rocks, but once he reached the courtyard he risked a glance upward again. The Thread had bloated even more and now stretched the full width of the thatch. Where were dragons when they were needed?

Sarrando reached the door first, pulling at the beam which held them closed. He’d only got it around a third of the way out of its retainers when panicked bleats and whinnies began inside the barn. One of the runner beasts kicked out at the door. Sarrando jumped back, clutching his hand. ‘Bugger!’ he swore.

Jevikel took over. He almost got his own hand trapped as the kicks continued. The beam usually slid easily, but not when two large beasts were pushing against the doors. Another violent blow made the timber shudder. Then Tallis and Vikkel were helping and between them they pulled it free. The doors burst open. Jevikel fell heavily, twisting his knee as the two maddened runner beasts plunged past. He rolled instinctively to avoid their hoofs. One caught him a glancing blow on the thigh.

The pain stopped him thinking, or moving for a few seconds. He saw his father and Tallis standing at the open doors. Why hadn’t they gone inside? Someone needed to move the hurdles, so the herdbeasts could escape as well.

Jevikel pushed himself up. He couldn’t put much weight on his leg; knew he wouldn’t be able to stand. That didn’t stop him from seeing what was happening. It was a sight that would give him nightmares for a long time. The Thread - could it even be called that now - had become a huge, roiling mass. It’s vile smell overpowered the natural and familiar scents of hay, fodder and animal dung. The roof had caved in under its weight and it slid inexorably down the rear wall, the herdbeasts instinctively shrinking away, pushing against the hurdles which kept them trapped. Their cries became still more frantic as larger beasts climbed on top of the smaller ones in their effort to escape. One jumped over the hurdle, hooves scrabbling on the stone as it ran for the open door. Another followed. But the Thread continued to advance, blindly seeking out more food.

Jevikel wanted to look away, but he couldn’t. With sick fascination he saw it engulf one of the smaller herdbeasts, devouring it from the hind legs forward. The beast’s front hooves continued scrabbling on the floor until the Thread reached some vital organ, at which point, the struggles abruptly ceased.

‘Come on!’ Vikkel pulled at his arm and got him to his feet. Tallis supported his other side as they retreated from the carnage.

A shadow passed over them. Jevikel looked up to see the underside of a blue dragon’s wing, then flinched away as fire filled the air. It caught the top of the Thread, catching it alight. The flame travelled down the length and breadth of the thing, as if it were the wick of a candle. It shrivelled and blackened, still writhing - still feeding - even as it perished. Dragon flame caught the hay alight too. What had been a scene of one sort of horror rapidly became another as the flames spread. The hurdle gave way and beasts spilled out of the barn. Only then did Jevikel become aware that they were in the open, exposed to death falling from the sky.

The dragon wheeled away and went to join his fellows. They’d moved on, chasing Thread across the landscape. That stray strand must have been one of the last to fall in this area. They were safe, for the time being, anyway.

Tallis and Vikkel helped him limp back to the Hold, pounding on the doors and waiting for someone to open them. Having left him, they went off to finish their duties and check the immediate area for any Thread that might have been missed. Sarrando followed him inside, looking pale and cradling his injured hand.

‘Are you hurt?’ Gatri was at his side in an instant.

‘Got knocked over, that’s all.’ His leg throbbed dully and he felt slightly sick, although he couldn’t be sure if that was from the pain, or what he’d just witnessed.

Merri came over to console Sarrando, while Merida carried the healing supplies box to them.

Jevikel stared out through the open doors. Smoke rose from the barn, while herdbeasts still milled around in panic in the courtyard. A couple of the men went to round them up.

‘What happened out there?’ Merida asked.

‘Thread,’ he replied. ‘Thread happened.’

©1967-2022 Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey; All Rights Reserved; Copyright © 2022 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 19
  • Love 16
  • Wow 2
  • Fingers Crossed 2

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.
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

WOW!! That was the best, most visceral description of threadfall I can ever remember reading… although it has been more than a few decades since I last read the originals. In any case, it was amazing writing, so thanks @Mawgrim!

  • Like 1
  • Love 3
Link to comment
13 hours ago, Dr. John NYC said:

WOW!! That was the best, most visceral description of threadfall I can ever remember reading… although it has been more than a few decades since I last read the originals. In any case, it was amazing writing, so thanks @Mawgrim!

Thank you. I wanted to convey the sheer horror of the stuff from the point of view of someone who's only heard about it in stories.

  • Like 2
  • Wow 1
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..