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

To the Weyr - 12. Aftermath

Jevikel had never felt so useless. Thankfully, his leg wasn’t broken, although the bruising hurt badly enough. Merida had strapped up his knee and instructed him to keep his weight off it for a couple of days.

They had lost six beasts in total; four of them eaten by Thread and another two so badly injured in the panic to escape they had to be slaughtered. Almost all of the supplies stored in both the main barn and the extension were ruined. What Thread hadn’t got when it ate through the roof was either burned to ash or contaminated by smoke. That included most of what had been piled on the cart, itself a charred ruin.

‘It’s going to be a lean few months until the spring crops are ready.’ Merida tended his leg, applying more numbweed. ‘Still, at least we have some fresh meat.’

Jevikel couldn’t stop worrying about Kadin. He knew Merida must be feeling the same, even if she covered her concern with chatter. ‘D’you… do you think Kadin’s all right?’ he asked her.

‘We can only hope so.’ Unlike Jemina, her emotions played across her face as transparently as Kadin’s did. ‘They should be back in a few days. Then we’ll know for certain.’

Lengiorl and Sarrando - who had got away with just a broken finger - had been sent up to find out the fate of herds and herders alike. If Jevikel could have walked, he’d have been with them, but all he could do was wait, hobbling around the Hold with the aid of a stick, like an old man.

Dragons had brought two flamethrowers to the Hold, together with a Smithcraft journeyman who demonstrated their use. Jevikel sat outside on a fine spring afternoon, watching the men practice in one of the fields. The idea of being able to burn Thread which threatened their home had put them in good spirits. Jevikel looked forward to being able to get rid of the stick and have two hands free again so that he too could use the devices. Not that it would have made any real difference if they’d had them on that dreadful day…

The sound of tinkling bells alerted him just before the men quenched the flamethrowers and looked towards the track snaking down from the hills. He struggled to his feet and shielded his eyes against the sun. The youngsters ran ahead of their mothers, climbing onto rocks and the piled stones where walls had once lined the way. People walked to either side of the herd, although they were too far away as yet to make out features. Two, no three figures. The tallest had to be Sarrando, out to the right of the beasts. Another herded the animals from the left; too tall for Kadin. That must be Lengiorl. The last of them, at the rear, leaned heavily on his staff and unlike the others, carried only a small pack. Was it Kadin or Berrand? Berrand or Kadin? They were similar in height and build. And whoever it was, what had happened to the other?

The first beasts funnelled out into the courtyard. A couple of the men went to help drive them into one of the fields around which the walls had been fully rebuilt. Vikkel stood, hands on hips, evidently counting his animals. There were certainly fewer than had left the Hold.

Jevikel still strained his eyes to confirm his feeling of dread. Something had happened to Kadin. There should be four lads, but only three had come back. Maybe he was too badly injured to be moved. Maybe he was…

The last herder raised his eyes. He’d been looking down at the track, trying not to trip on the ruts where mud had dried. Jevikel recognised Kadin and for a moment, his breath caught in his chest. He wanted to run - well, hobble - to him and hug him tight, but even his joy at seeing his lover again didn’t overcome his natural caution. Be careful, he told himself. Don’t go giving it away now.

Kadin looked weary. A grubby bandage circled one arm. He limped slightly. As he drew closer, Jevikel saw scabbed over grazes on his face. His eyes never left Jevikel as he drew closer. He was trying not to smile, but like his mother, he found it difficult to hide emotions. Jevikel hoped he was sufficiently in control of himself not to greet him any differently than the other folk, who were now beginning to spill outside the Hold as the news travelled.

Sarrando and Berrand’s mother, Andarla, pushed her way past the other women. ‘Where’s my boy?’ she asked, her voice uneven. Sarrando broke off to go to her, wrapping her in a hug. For just a moment, Jevikel envied them their right to touch. Then, as Sarrando said something in a low voice and her face crumpled, he didn’t envy either of them in the slightest. The other women closed in, there to offer sympathy and support.

The last few beasts trotted past, then Kadin stood in front of him. ‘Hey,’ he said in a flat tone. His eyes looked dull, as if they’d witnessed unknown horrors. Except they weren’t unknown. Jevikel couldn’t forget the way Thread consumed those beasts in the barn. Had Kadin seen the same fate befall Berrand?

‘Are you… ?’ he couldn’t finish the sentence.

‘A few scrapes. Nothing that won’t heal.’ He noticed Jevikel’s stick. ‘And you?’

‘Got knocked down by a runner beast. My leg's almost better.’

‘Good.’ The same, steady tone, almost devoid of emotion.

His fingers, arms, and body all ached to envelop Kadin, to reassure him in a way words couldn’t that everything would be all right. That they’d both survived and things were going to get better. Words were so inadequate sometimes.

Merida did what Jevikel couldn’t, wrapped her arms around her son and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Jevikel stayed back, out of the way as Vikkel strode over.

‘We’ve lost five breeding beasts and seven younglings, by my count,’ he snapped at Kadin. ‘Is that correct.’

Kadin detached himself from Merida’s arms and stood straight to face Vikkel. ‘By my count, too.’

‘So, what happened to the others?’

‘Vikkel!’ Merida said sharply. ‘Give the lad a chance to rest first. What’s done is done. It’ll make no difference whether he tells it now or later.’

Jevikel waited for the expected retort; his father putting Merida in her place, but it didn’t come.

‘Very well,’ Vikkel said. ‘Take him inside and mother him if you must. I’m sure everyone will be as eager to hear his story as I am.’ He turned on his heel and walked back down toward the field.

‘You didn’t have to defend me.’ Kadin said to his mother.

‘I’ll be the one to decide that. You may be growing up, but I know shock when I see it. Let’s get you some klah.’ She led him into the Hold.

Jevikel saw Sarrando hand an item to Andarla. He recognised it as a metal charm Berrand had always worn on a thong around his neck. She clutched it in her hand and pressed it to her breast. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes.

He followed Merida and Kadin. Even if he couldn’t physically comfort Kadin, he could stay close. Merida had already sat him down near the hearth. Jemina was in her usual place, wrapped in her own thoughts. She’d aged since the shake and ate barely enough to stay alive. Jevikel often wondered what would become of her. She didn’t even look up at all the commotion.

Kadin cradled the mug in both hands when Merida handed it to him. ‘There, now. You’re safe here. It’s all over,’ she said in a soothing voice.

But it isn’t, Jevikel wanted to say. It’s just begun. Thread will fall again and again. Instead, he poured klah for himself. It wasn’t as if he was going to get told off for shirking. That was probably the only good thing about being injured.

He sat as close to Kadin as he dared. ‘Don’t let my father push you around,’ he said quietly. ‘I can see it’s been bad for you. Talk when you feel up to it.’

Kadin managed a tiny smile. One hand left the mug and rested on Jevikel’s fingers. He couldn’t bring himself to break the contact, even though it must have been obvious to Merida.

‘Would you keep an eye him for me, Jevikel?’ she said. ‘I have some work to finish, then I’ll be back.’

‘Of course.’ They sat together and drank their klah. It was only when people began to come back inside that Kadin carefully took his hand away.

Lengiorl came to the hearth and fixed himself a klah, scraping a spoon around the sweetener jar as everyone did these days. It was only refilled once a sevenday. ‘He said anything yet?’

‘No. Give him a chance.’ Jevikel wasn’t sure how much Kadin had already told Sarrando and Lengiorl beyond the bare facts.

‘He never said much to us. Just that Berrand had died. And he gave that trinket to Sarrando for safe keeping. I want to hear the whole story.’

‘Like I said, give him a chance. You were here when the barn got hit, but you didn’t see it happen like I did. That was bad enough and it was only beasts.’ Lengiorl had about as much sensitivity as a rock.

‘I’ll speak to Andarla.’ Kadin spoke quietly. ‘She deserves to know.’

Andarla was being led inside as he spoke, still crying and clutching her only memento of her lost son. Jevikel beckoned her over. ‘Kadin wants to talk to you.’

She nodded. ‘I want to know how… how he died.’

Kadin took another drink of klah. The other women leaned close, straining to hear. Once they had, Jevikel knew it would be all over the Hold in no time.

‘The dragonriders warned us,’ he began. ‘That morning. They said we should get under cover. We drove the beasts to some caves nearby. It was the only safe place we could think of. But it was hard to keep them inside. There wasn't much we could use to bar the entrance. They wanted to get out and carry on eating.’ His voice was steady, yet strangely free of emotion. He talked as if it had happened to someone else. ‘The only way we could keep them in was to stay as close to the entrance as we could, blocking them with our staffs. It worked until Thread started to fall and the dragons were fighting it close by. The beasts went frantic. I got pushed over. I’m not sure exactly what happened to Berrand, except when I got up most of them were outside and he was trying to round them up again. He got hold of one of the older females and started dragging her back. I shouted for him to leave her; to get out of there. I don’t know if he heard or not.’ Kadin bowed his head. ‘Next thing, a piece of Thread came down and well, got them…’

Andarla stifled a sob. ‘Was it… was it quick?’

Kadin nodded, then swallowed. ‘A few heartbeats. Afterwards, when Thread had passed over, I went out. That’s when I found his charm. And the bell the beast had been wearing round her neck.’ He fell silent.

No one said anything for a few moments. ‘That’s hardly more than he told to us.’ Lengiorl sounded disappointed.

Jevikel rounded on him. ‘Try going out as ground crew next time if you want to see for yourself.’

‘Think I will.’ Lengiorl’s voice was full of bravado. ‘I fancy using one of them flamethrowers.’

‘I wish I could have done something.’ Kadin spoke quietly to Andarla. ‘I feel so useless that I couldn’t save him.’

‘It wasn’t your fault.’ She grasped his hands. ‘It’s Thread to blame.’

“And those who were warned about it, but chose to carry on as normal.’ Lorell glared across the room towards Vikkel, who had just returned inside. She’d never forgiven him for driving away her own son, Col.

Jevikel agreed with that, up to a point. If Vikkel had heeded the warnings and roofed the barns with slate, they’d not have lost the stock and supplies. He could have delayed sending the herds up to the high pastures. But he’d only changed his tune after the dragonriders came to Valley Narrows and the majority began to believe Thread had returned. By then it was too late.

Vikkel made his way over. ‘Had enough of a rest to be able to tell us anything?’ he said to Kadin.

‘He’s already told me.’ Andarla spoke up. ‘The lad’s lucky to be alive himself.’

‘I wasn’t speaking to you.’

Jevikel sensed his father was brewing up a foul mood. He didn’t want Kadin to bear the brunt. ‘Tell him what you just said to us,’ he advised Kadin.

So Kadin repeated his story, more easily this time. Jevikel supposed that each time he told it, it would become a little less real in his mind, a little more like one of Granny Val’s cautionary tales.

At the end, Vikkel nodded. ‘Not much else you could have done,’ he agreed. He stood, beckoning Tallis. ‘Get the men together. We need to come up with a plan.’ Then he stomped over to his office, disappearing inside.

Merida returned with her healing supplies. ‘Let’s have a look at you,’ she said to Kadin, tilting his face up to the light to see the scrapes on his face. ‘Judging by the way you were walking, these aren’t all the injuries you have.’

‘I got shoved into the cave wall,’ he said. ‘It was rough. A couple of the beasts trod on me, too.’

Jevikel stayed as she helped him off with his shirt. Livid bruises blossomed on his ribs, plus a few more grazes. When she took the bandage off, she made a face at the cut on his arm. ‘This needs cleaning properly.’

‘I tried. All I had was water and a bit of numbweed.’

The skin at the edges of the wound looked inflamed. That worried Jevikel. ‘Is he going to be all right?’ he asked Merida.

‘He’s young and strong. No reason why not. It’ll probably leave a scar, though.’

He talked to Kadin as she worked, to distract him. He told how the dragonriders had come to Valley Narrows and of their race back to the Hold. Of being out in the shelter while Thread fell and how swiftly it had destroyed the barn roof and what was inside. He missed out the gory details. Kadin had seen for himself how fast Thread attacked living flesh.

‘What’s going to happen now?’

Jevikel wasn’t sure. ‘I expect we’ll find out when they’ve all finished talking.’ He gestured toward the closed office door. ‘But I know for sure there’s not enough grazing to feed all the animals down here. They’ll have to work out a way to keep them safe up on the hills. Our forebears must have figured it out during the last Pass.’

‘I suppose so.’ Kadin winced as his mother applied more redwort solution to the cut.

‘Well, let’s hope they do it soon. This Hold can’t run on air. Folk need food and safe shelter.’ She glanced up at the reed roof above where they sat. ‘It was pure luck it didn’t land here rather than on the barn.’

Later on, his wounds dressed, Kadin sat outside in the sunshine, Jevikel with him. Work had finished for the day and people were taking advantage of the good weather to be outdoors.

‘We need to get away,’ Kadin said softly. ‘When I got back, all I wanted to do was to hold you. And while we’re here, we can’t even do that.’

‘I know.’ Jevikel still had a guilt complex about leaving his family in the lurch, but in the end, he couldn’t be responsible for his father’s bad decisions and nothing anyone did seemed to make much difference to Jemina these days. ‘Once we’re both healed, that’s when we’ll go.’

‘Of course, there’s Thread to worry about now. If they’re only going to warn us a few hours before each Fall, that doesn’t help with planning a two or three day journey.’

‘When they dropped off the flamethrowers, the dragonriders gave father a timetable, too. They’ve worked out there’s a regular, repeating pattern to it. Here at Pinnacle, it’s about once every twelve days.’

‘Well, that’s something. Did you get a look at it?’

‘It’s on the wall in his study. Next one should be three days from now. Any time after that, we can set off.’

‘Don’t know if I’ll be up to walking that far so soon.’

He was right. Jevikel knew the kind of terrain they’d need to negotiate and his knee didn’t feel strong enough yet. ‘Then we might have to leave it until later, just to be safe.’

Kadin looked over his shoulder. ‘Careful. Lengiorl’s on the way over. Sisala and Gatri, too.’

Jevikel rolled his eyes. ‘That’s all I need,’ he muttered. Since he’d been injured, Gatri had spent a lot of time fussing over him. Before he could walk again, he’d not even been able to get away from her.

‘Hey,’ Lengiorl said, plonking himself down beside Kadin. ‘Feelin’ better?’

‘A bit.’

‘It must have been horrible,’ Sisala put in, seating herself more delicately on his other side.

Gatri, meanwhile, sat just a bit too close to Jevikel and put an arm around his waist. ‘Jevikel told me all about what happened in the barn. He was so brave, running out into Threadfall like that to try and save the animals.’

‘Thread had already moved on,’ Jevikel reminded her. ‘It was just a last, stray piece that fell on the roof.’

Sisala snuggled up to Kadin. ‘So, what happened up in the hills.’

‘I’ve already told a load of people.’

‘Yes, but that’s not first hand, is it? They’ll all add bits and forget others.’

‘Maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it,’ Jevikel said. ‘When bad things happen, none of us want to be reminded of them, over and over.’

‘Go on, Kadin.’ Lengiorl insisted. ‘Give us the full story.’

‘I already did that, twice. Thread came. The beasts escaped. Berrand went after them…’

‘Yes, but we want to know what you saw. When it fell on them.’

‘Yes,’ Sisala said. ‘I know you were trying to spare Andarla’s feelings, but surely it wasn’t that quick.’

Lengiorl leaned forward. ‘Did it dissolve him all at once? Was there much blood?’

‘Or screaming?’ Sisala added. ‘I bet it must have hurt.'

Jevikel remembered the frantic struggling of the beast as it was consumed. It had obviously been in agony.

‘What’s going on here?’ Sarrando joined them.

Jevikel hadn’t noticed him approaching. ‘They’re trying to get Kadin to give them the gruesome details.’

Sarrando grimaced. He’d seen what happened in the barn, too.

Lengiorl didn’t notice his expression, or maybe didn’t care. ‘We’ve got a right to know.’

‘Listen, lad.’ Sarrando towered over Lengiorl. ‘You was trying to get him to talk all the way back. Maybe he don’t want to, eh? Maybe you should leave it.’

Lengiorl looked sulky, but no one in their right mind picked a fight with Sarrando. ‘Just wanted to find out a bit more,’ he muttered.

‘Then go out in the next Fall and see for yourself,’ Sarrando said. ‘Remember, that’s my little brother you’re talking about. Let him rest in peace.’

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.
Recognized characters/events/plots from Dragonriders of Pern belong to Ann McCaffrey
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Chapter Comments

On 4/22/2022 at 9:43 AM, ColumbusGuy said:

Though it's been a long time since I read the first books, I'd kept up with them all until about the third one by Todd...I don't recall chickens off-hand, so immediately thought of wherries...but now I'm wondering: I don't seem to recall dogs or cats either--does anyone else know if they're mentioned?

In 'Dragonflight' it's mentioned that canines are used to turn the spits in the kitchen at Ruatha Hold. Lessa uses her powers to slow one and speed the other so the meat ends up burned for Fax's feast. I believe the only cats are the big cats in the south bioengineered by Ted Tubberman.

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On 4/22/2022 at 4:12 PM, Clancy59 said:

Vikkel’s response in going after Kadin, while uncalled for, is understandable. Good thing Merida was there to put him in his place.  His claims that Thread was gone forever, the loss of people, animals and supplies and the cheap repairs he made to his hold have shown him to be an inadequate, unprepared holder.  He is very likely berating himself and, subconsciously, looking for someone else to blame for the problems in an attempt to direct the attention elsewhere.  Kadin is a perfect target to blame for the losses in the grazing fields.  Luckily, Kadin has his own supporters who recognize that he did everything possible within his power. Kadin is injured and in shock.  He needs rest, care, food and warmth.  He’ll get it, despite whatever Vikkel demands because his people will be upset that Vikkel’s decrees led them to this situation.

 

You are so right. People were happy to follow Vikkel when he could provide them with food and shelter, but now a lot of minds are going to be changed. As the only survivor, naturally he would blame Kadin.

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25 minutes ago, Darryl62 said:

My thoughts are that it might be difficult to not only get slate for roofing but also people trained in installing it correctly.  Might be a general panic after 200 turns of various Holds wanting to see to all kinds of repairs that haven't been fixed (or a reed thatch repair).  Mind be hard even if you had the Marks to spend as the bigger Holds with more people will take priority .

Spot on. A little Hold in the back of beyond will be fairly low down the list.

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On 4/21/2022 at 8:09 AM, drpaladin said:

Being a lone survivor is rough and Kadin is experiencing his measure of guilt even though there was nothing he could do. And now we have these people who want to vicariously live the tragedy no matter who it might hurt. It's grotesque, but so common.

Yes, they need to leave as soon as they can.

It's called survivor's guilt. Happens all the time and it is hard to shake. That's what made D'gar's grief so bad when S'brin went between.

I remember being on a drunk, back in 1982. For some foolish reason I was talking with a Korean Vet. I talked about a particular firefight near An Hoa and a few other people just couldn't leave it alone. They just had to know all the grisly details. I was working up to smacking a couple of people when the other Vet got me outside.

People often wonder why many of us will not talk about what we went through. Mawgrin just spelled it out and drpaladin explained it. People, in some respects, are like vampires.

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